I originally wrote this post for my first blog, California Eating, back in September 2006. Since then, I’ve tried to get my hands on Pink Pearl apples every year, even after we moved back to Massachusetts in 2007. Sadly, my normal supplier, Randy at Kiyokawa Family Orchards in Oregon, reports that their entire 2011 crop was lost to a blossom freeze back in the spring. And I’m too late for the California crop! Too bad. Anyone know of any other WA/OR sources?
The breed is popular with apple enthusiasts, but because it bruises easily and doesn’t keep well in storage, it never made it to the supermarket shelves.
To make matters worse, Pink Pearls are homely on the outside, with dull yellow-brown, faintly blushing skin and an uneven conical shape. I almost skipped over them at the farmers market myself. But they have a secret: inside, they’re positively vampy, with shockingly pink, sweet-tart flesh. Even the blooms are bright pink. The fruit is crisp and tastes of raspberries and lemon custard. In fact, I baked some Pink Pearls in a galette with raspberries and they were a natural pairing.
The first Pink Pearl was hybridized in Northern California in 1944 from another red-fleshed variety called “Surprise,” which, in turn, probably descended from an ancient breed of red-fleshed Turkish crabapples. “Surprise” apples were beautiful, but sour; a plant breeder named Albert Etter came up with with Pink Pearl as a way to breed more sweetness into them. So I’m giving thanks to him and to the farmers who keep these heirlooms in circulation.