Apples

My first few years in Japan, I tossed an awful lot of apples in the compost.

You see, I’d slice into them and discover rot. It happened all.the.time. And apples here aren’t cheap! I was frustrated and confounded.

And, it turns out, very, very wrong. Those apples hadn’t been rotten, they’d been top-quality fruit with a high sugar content, and the brown spots I had thought to be rot were what the Japanese call mitsu, or sorbitol in English. Lots of mitsu means lots of yumminess.

Oh, the waste!

I’m not the only one who’s made the mitsu mistake—I see it pop up in FB groups and message boards from time to time, and the OP gets comment after comment saying “I thought the same thing!”

Sweet, crisp and slightly sour relief. Apples in Japan are fab. (That’s not to say apples in Canada, my home country, are not—how I yearn for local varieties like Russets! And prime pie apples like Spy and Spartan!)

Writing up an article on fruit in Japan this morning, I came across a terrific website on Aomori’s apples (and apples in general), which is what got me thinking about the fruit. It’s brilliantly called Apple University (Ringo Daigaku), and has heaps of info on apple growing in Japan. I had no idea that de-bagged apples start off white! And they’re plenty creepy-looking till their colour develops.

A few years back, before our youngest came along, the husband and I took our older daughter apple-picking on our way back from Oku-Nikko. How I miss apple trees! It was wonderful to be back amongst the craggy trees that I grew up surrounded by. If only we’d been able to visit during apple blossom season, too! Another year, perhaps.

Triangle hair and socks over tights. That’s prime apple-picking fashion.

As a kid, I had a tree fort in an apple tree. The tree was located on the school grounds of the Catholic school across the street from my house. During summer holidays, I’d head over with whatever friend or sibling I could rope in to my adventures, laden down with wood scraps and twine.

We (I?) would tie the branches down to make “rooms,” and use the scraps for seats and other essential furniture. I even tried setting up a washroom of sorts, but that plan failed when my friend became pee-shy. Understandable as there were other kids in the park, and my branch walls weren’t terribly good at providing privacy.

One more apple anecdote: One year, I complained to my husband about the cost of apples. It was summertime, and a single apple was going for well over 100 yen. Outrageous! He looked at me, and like it was obvious, said “Well, it’s not apple season.”

Apple season? Was there such a thing? I thought a moment and realized he was right—apple season is the fall.

We also stopped by a bokujo (farm) with cattle while in Oku-Nikko. Cattle always deserve a spot in a blog post, regardless of whether the post is cattle-focused or not.

Growing up, we had apples at a decent price year-round (says the person who wasn’t doing the wallet-opening). I’d never really thought about an apple season. I came to the conclusion that being from a northern-ish climate where winter means no fresh anything, really, and where apples were always stored so that at least some fruit would be available, I had grown up with apples-year-round being the norm.

I have no idea if that’s why I thought of apples as season-free, despite spending fall mornings at the farmers’ market while my mum bought freshly picked apples for pies, but it’s the best reason I’ve come up with.

Bananas, too, I always assumed to be season-free. We now have banana “trees” in the garden, and ours are definitely not season-free! But bananas are a story for another post.

Published by helenkamakura

Helen is a Canadian writer and innkeeper based in Kamakura, Japan, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. If money became obsolete, she would happily accept peaches, fresh peas, and sun-warmed cherry tomatoes in exchange for her labour.

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