Thursday, September 27, 2012

Out of this World Apples

Last year, the apple tree in our backyard here in the Catskills was heavy with apples, with every branch full.  This year, there's barely an apple to be seen out there, due to an late frost last spring.  So despite the scarcity of apples in my immediate neighborhood, fall always seems a good time to think about apples.

Berries and cherries may seem like the most prevalent fruits in Ukraine as they're so scrumptious, prevalent and available in the summer months.  But apples take center stage come fall.  You can eat them fresh, picked from the tree in your dacha's garden;  you can make apple cakes;  you can dry them, and use them to make a compote from that;  you can have pickled apples,  or make apple wine or brandy.  So rather than those big, hard supermarket apples, Ukrainians have all these ways to make the flavors of real, taste-filled apples last the year-round.

Dried apples are just one part of what makes uzvar, a drink made from soaking dried apples, plums and perhaps pears in liquid.  The drink often has a smoky taste, from the way the fruits are dried,  and to me, is a bit of an acquired taste.
A little web research told me more about Ukrainian apples--several of these heirloom varieties can also be found in North America.  On several sites describing apple varieties, I wondered whether apples whose origins noted as Russian were perhaps Ukrainian.  From Crimea, there's the Kandil Sinap, also called Jubilee.  Discovered growing wild in Ukraine in the 1700s was the Alexander apple, which came into Britain in 1805;  and then made its way to the United States.  
One of the most notable apples was the Reinette Simirenko (above)  which, some agronomists say, may be the same as Woods' Greening, an American apple. But it may have originated in P.F. Simirenko's Ukrainian garden.  I could just find a bit about Simirenko,  who evidently was an expert in fruit crop breeding in Ukraine but whose work was opposed by Soviet horticulturist Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, leading to Simirenko's imprisonment and death in the 1930s.  But evidently the taste of the Reinette Simirenko is out of this world--Soviet cosmonauts snacked on it in space! So perhaps it's a carefully wrapped Reinette Simirenko you glimpse in this video showing ground level tasting of cosmonaut food.


  1. > the Reinette Simirenko

    commonly knows as the 'renaty' (ренати). there is also the very tasty 'paperivka' (паперівки). not sure if these are available in north america, although the 'winter banana' seems to be close to a 'paperivka'.


  2. > 'renaty' (ренати).

    s/v 'renety' (ренети)...

    wikipedia entries on ukr. apples: