The Imperfect Digest

Educating and connecting our community.

How About Dem Apples: The Story of Lady Alice

How About Dem Apples: The Story of Lady Alice

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What would you do with an apple like this? Eat it, right? Sadly, our food system doesn’t always make things so simple for blemished apples, which is why we’re sharing the beautiful saga of our beloved Lady Alice apples.

Why do these apples look strange?

The truth is that everyone’s skin gets blemished. The blemishes that you see on this apple are known as “enlarged lenticels.” This means that the apple’s natural pores that exchange gases with the environment are bigger than normal. While they have no impact on how the apple tastes, they have a surprisingly big impact on how marketable the apples are.

Where do these apples come from?

These apples come from our friends at Rainier Fruit in Washington state. A recent harvest of this artisanal variety was all set to get exported to be sold in Asia, but a sizeable portion of them had these unsightly lenticels that meant that they couldn’t be sold to the fresh market. Depending on the lot they’re picking, 40-60% of Rainier’s apples may not meet the strict cosmetic standards required to be sold at retail.

What would normally happen to blemished apples?

Apples like these face a variety of uncertain fates. Rainier could try selling them to the slicer or juice market, but this is never guaranteed or sustainable outcome. The reason is that if the apple market is tight, processors will happily buy them, but other years, there are simply more apples on the market than even the processors can buy, which leaves growers with no good options for their ugly fruit.  If they can’t find a buyer, they’ll have to make the hard choice to compost their apples or even send them to the dump to get rid of them. While no grower wants to do this, sometimes there is simply not enough demand for their blemished fruit, which is a true shame.

How did we get them?

Like in any good relationship, healthy communication saved the day! After taking the time to learn their story, these apples were on their way to getting packed into Imperfect boxes across the West coast. While the processing market might have taken them this year, this wouldn’t be an option every year, so Rainier wanted to find a way to find a reliable home for their blemished apples. They also told us that they’d much rather sell them to people so they can be appreciated for the magnificent Lady Alices that they are, not some anonymous part of a plastic-wrapped fruit tray or a jug of apple juice.

Why does this story matter?

While this fruit is unique, this type of story sadly is not. As with our cabbage, Mandarin oranges, and rutabagas, we’re sharing this story not because it’s rare, but because of how common it is. While “ugly” fruit and “perfect” fruit take the same amount of energy and resources to grow, the market dramatically undervalues one and overvalues the other, causing unnecessary headaches for farmers. We are changing this by looking for ways to help deliver better outcomes for the growers we work with as well as the produce that they pour so much time and energy into growing. Your support helps make this happen. Thanks for sticking up for the blemished apples of the world.


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