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Ugly’s only skin deep when it comes to apples

October 20th, 2008 · 7 Comments · Farmers markets, Food selection, local food

Would you pay more for an apple if it was produced with fewer chemicals? Probably not if it’s ugly, according to a paper by Chengyan Yue, Helen H. Jensen and others at Iowa State University. But maybe you’d reconsider if you knew that ugly apples can taste great. Take this apple, for instance.

From the side

From the bottom

That ugly apple came from my gigantic haul from the Lawrence Farmers Market recently, and I’m here to tell you it was delicious: crisp, juicy, flavorful. I, an apple culture ignoramus with access to the World Wide Web, have diagnosed it and its fellows as a victim of sooty blot and flyspeck fungi, as illustrated here and at Ohio State University Extension.  Accordingto Iowa State Extension, “Sooty blotch and flyspeck fungi harm only the appearance of an apple, not its taste.” Indeed.

Sure, pretty is appealing. But when you get fresh, tree-ripened local apples with a little smudge, you’ll see that the beauty is in the eating. Again, consider this same apple.

First, polished:

You can tell it’s the same apple by the little bruise indention at the shoulder on the right. All it took to eliminate the blotches was rubbing with a kitchen towel.

Before I cut into it, though, I did notice one tell-tale mark that ugly apple newbies might not notice:

This photo, besides revealing a little flyspeck fungus (doesn’t that name sound appetizing?), shows a little pinhole. That, plus the extra-ugly apple bottom, hinted that a worm may have had a sample. Still this is not cause for alarm! Witness the apple, halved:


When quartered, however, we can see where a worm has had it’s way with a little bit of the core.


That’s just one quarter. The other three were perfect, do you hear me? Look at this:

After trimming away the wormy bit, I still had this much apple to eat. (Core and wormy bit in front, good stuff in back.) It only took a minute or two before the core was all I had left.

I guess that’s why, even though I’ve only made one apple crisp and one tart (so far) from my 20-pound purchase, my apple stash keeps shrinking.  I just keep eating the darned things and enjoying them all the more for knowing that the farmer who grew them prefers using fewer chemicals.

I guess when other people discover ugly apples taste wonderful, they just might bid the price up. In the meantime, I’ll just eat them and smile.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Joanne

    Thank you for this post! I too appreciate “ugly” apples that are grown organically. (or as close as possible.) I am currently processing an excessive number of free, perfect, organic Bartlett pears. So far? Dehydrated pears, 8 cups pear vanilla jam, 9 cups pear chutney, frozen and fresh pear sauce…. Alot of the remainder will go to the food pantry tomorrow. There are only so many pears I can process and get my work done!

  • Meryl

    There’s one couple at the farmer’s market–on the northeast side–the people that will cut off a sample of each apple and let you taste it? Yum!

  • Susan G.

    okay, flyspeck fungus and sooty blot? No wonder you haven’t made anything else! Arcane web searches for diseases you have no control over! My God, you’ve lost it!

    Which is why I spend my valuable time looking at a sister’s food blog and the German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue site. So there!

    Seriously, the apples are so good this year I think you could get some good out of one that is half rotten. I just have never figured out the tipping point between bruising & unsightly spots to where it becomes bad enough that the flavor/texture is affected. Guess it’s in the tasting.

    Nice observation, Janet…

  • Janet Majure

    Joanne, your preserving and donations are impressive. Wow.

    I think there are a couple of vendor that offer samples, Meryl. That’s the best way to know, isn’t it?

    Susan, I need something to take my mind off of other unpleasant matters, and I know you know what I mean. But on the question of apples… if you can find a vendor/ grower who will give you a sample as per Meryl, you’ll know what you’re getting into!

  • Deedee

    On our local news last week they had an orchard owner on telling of how business was down because most people don’t think orchard apples are “pretty” because they are used to big box grocery store apples. How sad.

  • Janet Majure

    Maybe we need to get this post to your local orchardist, Deedee! There’s a lot of educating to do out there, sadly, but I think/hope people are getting more open to “new” ideas about food.

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