Just the facts. From the experts.

Dr. Herbert Aldwinckle, professor emeritus at Cornell University’s Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, has been studying apples for four decades. We spoke with him about all things apples and what’s on the horizon – including the development of an apple that won’t turn brown.

  Dr. Herbert Aldwinckle

What have you learned during your 40 years of studies?

Dr. Aldwinckle: “There have been tremendous advances in the way apples are grown. I’ve learned that you can make apples taste better and you can make them more resistant to disease by improving the root stocks they are grafted onto. If you go to a supermarket with a good produce section today, you’ll find about 10 different varieties of apple and they all taste better than they did 40 years ago. We’ve been able to make them juicier and tastier and they look better.”

Your research has taken you abroad in search of the origin of the domestic apple. What did you find?

Dr. Aldwinckle: “We went into central Asia in 1989 and found apple trees in remote forests bearing fruit that looked just like domestic apples. They tasted pretty good, too. We brought the material back to our labs and using DNA analysis we could tell they were really the progenitors of the domestic apple.” 

Apple consumption has been on the decline over the last 30 years, while convenient, pre-packaged fruits and vegetables (think baby carrots) have increased in popularity. “Browning” is an oft-cited reason why apples are losing the popularity contest. We’ve heard of a new technology that prevents browning. What are your thoughts? 

Dr. Aldwinckle: “I think this will be a terrific benefit for apple eaters. When an apple turns brown on the plate, not many people, especially children, want to eat them even though they’re perfectly healthful and nutritious. The new technology, I think, will increase consumption of apples significantly – especially by kids. I think we’ll be able to have prepackaged apple slices in the produce section. This will be a great convenience for parents looking for a nutritious snack for their children’s lunch boxes.”

The Non-Browning Apple

We also talked to Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF). That’s the company, based out of British Columbia, that worked with Dr. Aldwinckle to develop Arctic® apples, which won’t turn brown when bruised, bitten or cut. Click here to hear our interview with Mr. Carter. 

  Neal Carter

This time lapse video pits an Arctic® Golden against a conventional Golden Delicious apple.

So why don’t these apples turn brown?

Carter: “A research group out of Australia identified the enzyme that causes apples to brown. From there, OSF worked to turn off the enzyme in apples and stop the browning reaction.”

Where can we buy these apples?

Carter: “The Arctic® apple varieties aren’t available in stores yet because all foods produced through biotechnology must be deregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before they can be sold to consumers. This means they must go through extensive testing to ensure there is no potential for allergic reactions or other health issues. It has been estimated that the apple could be commercially approved in mid-2013 and available in U.S. stores by 2014 or 2015.

Listen to the full interview with Neal Carter by clicking the audio link below.

The non-browning apple was developed through biotechnology and genetic modification, which will no doubt cause some consumer concerns. What are your thoughts?

Dr. Aldwinckle: “I appreciate peoples’ concerns, and my hunch is that they are worried because this is new to them. It sounds unusual, and we’ve grown accustomed to our apples turning brown. What I can tell you is that this technology is very safe. We’re not introducing any new genes to stop the browning effect – we’re actually silencing the genes that cause the browning. It’s a very gentle technology and I’ve found no danger to the healthfulness of the fruit.

“It’s also going to be good for improved nutrition because consumption will increase. Apples contain many nutrients that are known to help keep us healthy and I truly believe the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has validity.”

 

Have we left you hungry for apples? Check out these delicious apple recipes from Susan at www.DoughMessTic.com 

Chocolate Dipped Caramel Apples                    

Photo Credit: Susan Whetzel, She's Becoming DoughMessTic Blog 

Apple Pie Popovers

Photo Credit: Susan Whetzel, She's Becoming DoughMessTic Blog

Candy Apple Pie

Photo Credit: Susan Whetzel, She's Becoming DoughMessTic Blog

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