Apples are hanging heavy on our apple trees, although their numbers have been greatly diminished by a series of storms interspersed with very hot weather. The apple tree which holds pride of place, in the middle of our garden, is of a local variety. Or at least, local in the sense that my late neighbor, a gardener of unique talent, planted it there himself some fifty years ago with cuttings from his own garden – and that garden dates back well over a 150 years.
The apples are crisp, sweet and tart, and make delightful apple pies. Our neighbors (the children of the gifted gardener) still homepress vast quantities of juice and cidre for local sale from their orchards.
A study published this summer finds that apples – at least, the Japanese apples used in the study – are changing with the climate. According to the paper, this kind of research poses specific challenges, and “detecting long-term trends (…) requires data from apple orchards in which there have been no alterations in cultivars and management practices for extended periods.”
Studying 30-40 years of apple data, and carrying out a range of objective experiments on everything from acid concentration and fruit firmness to peel color and blossom dates, the study’s authors conclude that today’s Fuji and Tsugara apples are indeed different from the fruit that went to market four decades ago.
They are less flavorful, mealier, and more disease-prone, to be exact.
This doesn’t mean that other cultivars can’t pick up the slack when it comes to providing a wonderful taste and textural experience.
What it does mean is that apple trees, like everything else, must adapt to climate change.
Scientific Papers study – Changes in the taste and textural attributes of apples in response to climate changes by T. Sugiura, H. Ogawa, N. Fukuda & T. Moriguchi