Crimson to the Core: Nagano’s All-New Apple Strains Make a Splash

Society Lifestyle Food and Drink

What began as a hobby for a Nagano Prefecture farmer has resulted in a new type of apple. Very sweet and red all the way to the core, these apples are attracting foodies’ attention with their unusually vivid appearance.

Red Inside and Out

Everyone knows apples: red, green, or yellow on the outside, and white once you bite into one. A farmer in Nagano Prefecture, however, has developed new strains of apples that are red on the inside too.

Yoshiie Kazuo has spent more than three decades in developing what he describes as apples with red insides that are enjoyable both to eat and to look at. He has named the fruit of his labors Nakano-shinku, meaning “the crimson of Nakano,” the city where his orchards stand.

What seems to be an ordinary apple turns out to have brilliant red fruit on the inside.

While most apples whose flesh is tinged with color are tart and used mainly in processed foods as a result, Nakano-shinku fruit are tasty even if eaten fresh off the branch. Yoshiie boasts that his apples are “chock-full of sweetness.”

It Started as a Hobby

Yoshiie Kazuo tends to his Nagano orchard.

For Yoshiie, it all began at the college of agriculture that he attended 30 years ago. Upon encountering decorative red-inside apples at that time, he started a research project aimed at making them taste good. “I was instantly struck,” he says. “I thought it would be great if these apples were edible fresh, and took it up as a hobby.”

Yoshiie acquired various types of apples from orchards and schools across Japan and began hybridizing them. His research fields now have some 5,000 types of apple cultivars. Most of these are not suitable for commercialization, however, either because they lack the red color on the inside, or are prone to disease even if they do acquire the internal hue.

“It hasn’t been a struggle for me, because I just do it for fun,” says Yoshiie. Nonetheless, his painstaking hybridization efforts this year resulted at last in five types of red-to-the-core apples being registered: Nakano-shinku and two other fruits ready to eat raw, a well as two other apple strains for use in processed foods.

At top are Moon Rouge and Enbu (fire dance), suitable for eating fresh; at bottom are the Irodori (Colorfulness) and Nakano-no-kirameki (Light of Nakano) cooking apples.

Prized by Hotels and Restaurants

Last year MimiEden, a café in the city of Nakano, began offering sweets made with Yoshiie’s all-red apples.

MimiEden’s Miyashita Ayaka prepares an apple dessert.

“The vivid colors of the fruit made me nervous about how to use them,” says MimiEden’s Miyashita Ayaka. “Having such red pretty red apples, I wanted to make sure that people would enjoy both the look and the taste alike.”

The red and white colors of the MimiEden mousse, made with Nakano-shinku apples and available only in autumn, present a striking contrast on the plate.

MimiEden’s Nakano-shinku mousse.

Other foodies have also been attracted by the bright appearance of these apples. Yoshiie’s red-inside apples are currently prized by hotels and restaurants all over the country.

“I’m glad people like them,” says Yoshiie. “And I want to strive for even better things. In Japan, you’ve got your standard apples, your Fuji and Tsugaru types that you routinely find in stores. I’d like it if these apples of mine were sold as routinely in stores, and eaten as routinely by families, as those other types.”

(Originally published in Japanese on FNN’s Prime Online on October 20, 2018. Translated by Nippon.com.)

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