Opal fruits? These look good…
I saw this packet of ‘Opal’ apples in the supermarket half price section and immediately knew they were something special. I grow 7 different varieties of apple here at Rosemary Cottage Gardens so take a keen interest in these quintessentially British fruits. I am particularly fond of my late cropping variety (although I don’t know its name unfortunately) as its December apples are surprisingly fresh and juicy at a time of year when thoughts of summer have long faded. So there was something compelling about these large golden coloured Opals in their tempting half price packaging.
I got them home, and wow! My hunch was right. These beauties are superb! Not only are these great apples, but they have some really interesting characteristics and a cool back story. So here is my mini review…
Looks & season
Large and distinctively golden, Opals have a little bit of red blush on some fruit and small patches of russet which provide a certain authentic orchard look. They are not waxed, relying successfully on their natural glow. Opals mature in November and are picked and cold stored keeping them in perfect condition so they are available until the end of January.
Taste & Heritage
Opal apples are exceptionally sweet, crisp and juicy with more aromatic tang than expected. Opal was developed in the Czech Republic by crossing Golden Delicious (itself a fantastic apple especially when home-grown) and Topaz (a modern aromatic variety). Opal has certainly inherited many of the best qualities of both parents.
Cutting and slicing
Being such a large apple Opal is perhaps best cut up before it is eaten. It slices really nicely with even thin pieces remaining firm and crisp. The flesh is golden-white and attractive. Sliced thin or in chunks Opal is a good choice for buffets, dips, finger food and packed lunches for kids, and this is where their special claim to fame comes in: Opal apples are naturally resistant to browning.
Apples that are resistant to browning are few and far between. If I want to keep half an apple for tomorrow, I place it in the fridge, cut side down in lemon juice to slow the process. The downside of the lemon trick is that it changes the apple’s flavour. Non-browning is a desirable trait enabling slices to be added to packed lunches or left out for a buffet without them becoming unappetising too quickly.
In the USA genetically modified varieties of apples (GMOs) have been specially developed to be non-browning. As you can imagine this is controversial amongst consumers. Opal though is fighting back, and being promoted in the US as an example of how desirable properties can be achieved through conventional breeding programmes. So hurray for Opal’s GMO challenging credentials!
After cutting up one of the opals, I left them on the chopping board on the dining table at 20C for a couple of hours. Here is what happened (click to enlarge):
As you can see after nearly two hours the slices have started to brown a little after 2 hours, but this progresses very slowly. The final image shows them after 21 hours sitting out on the table overnight. Pretty impressive! Kept in the fridge, or in an airtight lunch box and these stay appetising all day long.
I love eating cheese with apple. When I’m working in the garden an apple and cheese is lunch for me. Of course, everyone agrees that the best cheese for eating with apple is a hard variety such as cheddar. And my favourite cheddar right now is Goodwood’s award-winning Charlton. Lots of apples go well with cheddars, and Opal is probably up there with the best of them.
Here it is as part of a posh-nosh lunch I had today.
For a winter home-grown variety I think Opal is hard to beat. I’m going to be looking out for these every year from now on. We just bought a couple more bags before the offer ends.
Get em now!
If you can’t get down to your nearest Waitrose store, or they are out of stock, don’t despair they are currently available to order online (and half price) but I don’t know how long they will be there.
If you have tried these let me know what you think below.