When I first came to the States in 1968, I seem to remember that there were only four types of apples in supermarkets: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Rome. Coming from Bombay where apples were an expensive rarity in those days, four varieties were plenty even if two of them ( Granny Smith and Rome) were mainly used in cooking. In time however, I began to yearn for more. I found that in plenty in the greenmarkets and farm markets in New York City where each fall more than a dozen different types were available. Stayman Winesap, Jonathan, Empire, McCoun, Cortland, Macintosh, Northern Spy and Jonagold were some of those I remember. What a variety of colors, sizes and textures ! In time, I came to appreciate the differences and settle upon my favorites, though they kept changing from time to time. Some had a superior texture, others were sweeter, still others prettier. One of the disappointments was the Pink Lady which had a cottony texture that belied its beautiful exterior. I never found an apple that was perfect in all the attributes of sweetness, texture and appearance but I had fun trying.
Each November, when the farm stands were piled high with different types of apples, I would get two each of several different varieties, core them,cut them into eighths and arrange them on paper plates. My wife and two children and I would then take part in a blind taste test and rank them. It was fun to see how our choices varied and discuss why we preferred one over another. We used to do these taste tests with different types of cheese too. Today, twenty years later, my children still remember those times and the fun they were.
I thought back to those times because of a recent visit to the local Shoprite. Most times, it stocks about half a dozen varieties( Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Rome, Granny Smith and Macintosh). Yesterday, there were more than a dozen on hand and I harked back to those days when we used to have blind taste tests. Many of the varieties were new to me and I picked two each of the Ambrosia and the Sonya. I’ve tried the Ambrosia and it certainly lives up to its name. Crisp, sweet but not too much so, and a beautiful yellow-red on the outside. Tonight, the Sonya.