Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Tiny light lenticels are not very prominent but provide some contrast, and the calyx (which is closed) is rimmed with a base of 5 prominent "chins." Smitten is generally round, but most are a bit elongated. In some ways the shape suggests that of a hefty Red Delicious.
The fruit is firm in hand and smells sweetly and mildly of cider with a little spice.
The crisp flesh is hard enough that biting in takes a little effort. Inside, Smitten is more fine-grained than otherwise and a light buttery yellow. The firm flesh breaks into great crunchy chunks, and the flavors are well balanced.
Corn syrup mixes with tempering tartness that is tangy ending as savory, which is prominent in the finish. There's a little spice and a nod towards vinous; there's a whisper of flowers and oranges. These flavors are more subtle than rich.
Where many modern varieties fairly clobber you with sugar and saturated flavors, Smitten is nuanced. I could see it appealing to fans of such vinous apples as McIntosh and Macoun, not that it is very like either. Its subtlety stands out and is very welcome.
Smitten is another product of New Zealand's very productive apple-breeding program. As a modern managed brand ("Smitten" is a trademark), this apple shows us the marketer's art as well as the breeder's.
web and Facebook pages for this apple, and the de rigueur Twitter account. There's a motto for goodness sakes, and even the tiny fruit sticker is cleverly crafted. (Perhaps too cleverly—it did not naturally occur to me that the stylized marks in place of "tt" in "Smitten" are kisses.)
Compare that with the dull generic stickers for varieties that have passed into the public domain. (Why no carefully crafted sticker for Macoun? Because there is no consortium of exclusive growers who would profit from spending money to design and produce one.)
Smitten's parents are not commercialized or named varieties, but the grandparents are. The family tree as far as I can make it out is (Falstaff x Fiesta) x (Braeburn x Gala). These are great bloodlines, though I was guessing some Akane or similar based on flavor.
Smitten is the second of two new-to-me varieties that I found for sale here in New England last week. The other is Lemonade. These are both bred and, for now, exclusively grown in New Zealand, so they arrive in late spring.
Smitten is an early-harvest variety (picked in February, our August). I'd say it does pretty well in storage.