Crunchy, sweet, good enough to eat: the apple is the Casanova among the fruit. A conversation with the Austrian food expert Barbara Haiden about the great seducer that Germans can’t get enough of.
Ms. Haiden, describe a perfect apple for me. For me it is medium-sized, round and plump. He is yellow and of course has red cheeks. And the most important thing: it is sweet and sour at the same time. The Blenheim Renette would be such an apple. It has light, white flesh and a fine, muscat aroma. The balance between sweetness and acidity is perfect! Most edible apples lack this refreshing acidity. They are mainly sweet. Your new cookbook is all about the apple. Why is he getting so much attention from you? Because I love apples. In the village where I grew up, almost every house has an orchard with apple trees of all kinds. My parents also had a small farm and two large orchards. As a child, I was always there – picking apples, processing them. Meanwhile I take care of the gardens and plant old varieties. I’m telling you, anyone who has ever eaten an old variety of a really good apple, maybe even fresh off the tree, will never want to be without that taste. Many people are now looking for these special varieties again. They call the apple the king of fruits. What can it do that other fruit can’t? I’m assuming our cultural background, in Asia or Africa the apple probably won’t be that important. But for us, the apple is the fruit that ranks above all fruit and is very popular because it is suitable as a snack fruit, but is also versatile in the kitchen. In Germany, each individual eats an average of around 20 kilograms of apples a year . How many can you do? Phew. I think more than 20 kilos hopefully. Maybe twice as much. I eat a lot of apples, especially when they are in season. The last apples went to the compost in May because they were shriveled and inedible. But by March, early April, we ate apples from storage. There are also some that only become good through storage.
Why doesn’t the apple actually get boring? There’s also mangoes and pineapples and kiwis and… well, fruits, with less stale charm. So why can’t we keep our hands off him?It’s the versatility. You can see that in the many, many recipes with apples from the regional kitchen. The apple pie alone is part of the culinary culture in German-speaking countries. However, as apple growers have reported to me, it is also the case that apple consumption has fallen slightly in recent years. In contrast to berries, which are currently being heavily promoted. The apple is advertised as a regional, domestic fruit. But can you still say that with the consumption quantities? After all, it is also imported in large quantities. Most of it still comes from domestic cultivation. But the cheap competition from abroad is also an issue. I have heard from growers that imports from Poland are very strong, there are huge apple orchards there and production is cheaper there. South Tyrol is also an apple country that exports a lot within Europe. But you can also find South African and Argentinian apples in the supermarket – unfortunately. Is it okay to buy apples in the supermarket? It’s often unavoidable. The beautiful old varieties that taste so individual and look so individual are actually reserved for a minority. You don’t get such apples in the supermarket or hardly at all. Producers say they can’t, or hardly, produce these apples. The trees have too few and then also alternating yields, so they do not bring harvest every year. Firstly, there are not enough apples from meadow orchards and secondly, these few are hardly available. The common man is more or less forced to buy supermarket apples. But most of them don’t know any other apples anyway… In the supermarket there are usually only the same varieties like Braeburn, Elstar, Gala. About 100 years ago, however, there were still more than 1,000 different types of apples in Germany alone. Today, most of them have been forgotten. Pomologists strive to bring back old varieties. You too have apples like that in your garden, why? I must honestly admit that when I eat apples from the supermarket I am glad to have my own orchard. Most supermarket apples taste boring. While they’re good for eating raw, they’re not great for overcooking. In terms of diversity, it is important – as with all other products – that there are many different varieties. In addition, the meadow orchards are valuable ecosystems.
Cultivated apples are grown according to consumer tastes. They are sweeter than most of the older varieties and don’t brown as quickly. But that also has disadvantages. According to researchers, they are also less healthy as a result. This is based on the fact that there are far fewer secondary plant substances in the cultivated apples. Aren’t mainstream apples as healthy as they are made out to be? There are various studies that indicate that old apple varieties have more components than modern breeds. And we also know that old apple varieties are better tolerated by people who actually have an intolerance. But many of these varieties are just not well suited for the trade. They become slightly mealy. The peel is sensitive and the apples quickly develop rotten spots. Apples from meadow orchards or from the home garden sometimes have scabs and spots and are harder to sell at a market. The consumer is used to an optically perfect apple. I, on the other hand, always find it a shame when the apples in the supermarket look like they have been varnished. And which type of apple is the very best? There is no “best” apple. Every region has its special varieties, you can find great apples everywhere. You can have a favorite apple – as mentioned, one of my favorites is the Blenheim Gold Reinette. It tastes refreshingly sour and is also great for cooking. It turns into a fine, delicate mush without you having to do anything. Do you know the world-famous scene from “Sleepless in Seattle” where Meg Ryan peels the apple in one piece… I don’t know if I can do that too. What I know: Grandmother always preached to peel the apple so thinly that as little of the flesh as possible was lost. But you don’t have to peel a good apple anyway.
This article contains so-called affiliate links. There is more information here.