There's a Pink Lady in your future. Although that might sound like something from a fortune cookie, there's nothing mysterious about the prediction. The Pink Lady is just the latest in a string of Down Under apple varieties to make it big in California orchards.
From an initial harvest of about 25,000 pounds in 1995, the Pink Lady has moved into the fast lane. This year's harvest, which will begin in early November, is projected to be 450,000 to 500,000 pounds. It is the fifth-largest variety harvested in the state and next year will probably move ahead of Red Delicious (800,000 pounds this year).
"I think we'll see the Pink Lady harvest double next year," says Kenton Kidd, director of the California Apple Commission. "These are young trees that are just coming on. They usually get about a half a crop in the third year of production; that's where we are now. Then they get three-fourths of the crop in the fourth year and a full crop in the fifth year. We could end up with as much as 40 million pounds by the turn of the century."
Kidd describes the Pink Lady as having a bright pink, almost fuchsia color and "tasting like a Gala with a CO2 charge. It's got a zing to it; it's a true sweet-tart apple," he says. "It could finally be an apple that people who like sweet apples will like and that people who like tart apples will like too."
The most popular apple in California these days is the Granny Smith, a tart green apple. There will be about 160 million pounds of those harvested this year. The other top varieties include Fujis and Galas. Though Fujis come from Japan, Granny Smith, Gala and Pink Lady come from Australia and New Zealand.
That's no coincidence. The biggest problem apple growers in California face is lack of cold temperatures, a situation shared in Australia and New Zealand. It takes a certain amount of winter chill to turn most apple varieties from green to red. Most areas in California are borderline at best.
In fact, the California Fuji harvest has leveled off far short of where it was once predicted to be because even those apples can't get enough chill to turn colors consistently.
Best buys in the produce department this week include all kinds of berries, honeydew melons, bananas, peaches, plums and nectarines as well as tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant and lettuce.
Carolyn Olney of the Southland Farmers Market Assn. reports that the Valdiva brothers of Carlsbad are selling tiny tasty haricots verts (slim French green beans) at the markets in San Dimas on Wednesday, Westwood on Thursday, Monrovia and Venice on Friday, Encino on Sunday and West Hollywood on Monday, as well as at the Santa Monica Pico markets on Saturday and Wednesday.