Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Board the Enterprise

What's in your box? This week has something new: Enterprise apples. Why Enterprise? For those in the apple-breeding community, there's a secret tip-off: the letters pri tucked into the name Enterprise. PRI stands for the Purdue-Rutgers-Illinois apple breeding program, a horticultural research & development program started in 1945 between Purdue University, Rutgers University, and the University of Illinois-Urbana. To honor the work done at these schools, every new apple bred by the program is tagged by the letters "PRI" somewhere in the name. Other apples have included Prima, Priscilla, Williams Prize, and Pristine.

Enterprise is a particularly tasty late-season apple. It ripens late and goes boldly into cold storage after picking, turning even sweeter and developing more complex flavors after one to two months held just above freezing. First planted in 1982, it has an illustrious parentage combining Rome Beauty, Starking Delicious, McIntosh, and Golden Delicious. A lot of what makes Enterprise valuable, though, isn't visible to the average consumer.

Apples, like just about every commercially developed fruit, are susceptible to all kinds of fungal and bacterial diseases. These can be combated with potent chemical sprays and dusts during the course of the growing season, but a better route, especially for the organic grower, is to get to the root of the problem and breed disease-resistant varieties. Enterprise was bred to resist several common apple diseases, including powdery mildew, scab (which forms unslightly brown patches on the skin), and fireblight (which kills and blackens the tree's limbs). Organic growers are smart to plant these tougher, less susceptible types of trees, since starting out with a tougher tree means less trouble-shooting (and less chance of an orchard ravaged by disease) during the growing season. Tougher trees also mean less chemical interventions, even for non-organic growers. So when you bite into these beautiful apples, take a moment to thank those decades of tireless apple researchers!

Waldorf Salad
Created at New York City's famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1880s, Waldorf Salad is a sweet and crunchy addition to any summer picnic menu.

3 apples, cored and cubed
1 cup thinly sliced celery or cubed jicama
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes if dry
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar (if needed)
salt and pepper to taste
Romaine lettuce leaves, for serving.

Toss apples, celery, walnuts, and raisins together. In a separate bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice and sugar (if using). Toss dressing with apple mixture, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over Romaine lettuce leaves. If making ahead, omit nuts and mix in just before serving.

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