The stores are full of apples. They're always full of apples, of course, but now is Extra Apple Season, so there are mounds of shining red orbs with different names. Some stores have a helpful chart:
• Cripps Pink: Crunchy, tart, good for snacking.
• Haralson: Tart, good for snacking, crunchy.
• McIntosh: The national apple of Canada, it's tart, snacky and good for crunching.
• Red Delicious: Basically, an apple.
• Merton: This mealy abomination was thrown at people locked in the public stocks for adultery.
• Golden Delicious: It's not red, so view it with suspicion; best hidden in pies.
• Granny Smith: Good for baking and juggling.
• Grampa Smith: Moonshine fuel.
• Fiji: Crunchy, crisp, may actually be a Gala, but who cares?
• Swedish Monkey Spheres: Stringy, aftertaste of rabies.
And so on. The number of varieties in the store are scant compared with the true diversity of the apple kingdom; there are more than 7,500 types, with 2,500 grown in the United States. We confine ourselves to 20 or so. Some unfamiliar apples do not sound attractive; one website describes the Baumann's Reinette as "Sharp/sweet flavour but fairly bland, quite chewy — looks better than it tastes." If you want to walk around working on a cud of apple pulp for the afternoon, this is the one to get.
There's the Bloody Ploughman, which goes against my rule on eating anything named after a farm accident, and the Beverley Pippin, which sounds like a name you'd see on a bus bench advertising a Realtor.
You wonder how the Nonnetit Bastard apple earned its name; possibly they spliced two varieties together without marrying them first. I'm curious about the Zuccalmaglio, which is "flavored with tones of wild strawberry, quince, pineapple, ripe pear and a fine floral touch." You want to say, Dude. You're an apple — focus. "But I want to be so much more! I've always felt more at home with quinces and pears than boring old apples. I'm going to run away to New York when I graduate from high school and there's nothing you can do."
The Toko: Its skin "has a dull, rough finish and rather unattractive color, yellow-green with brownish-orange blush. The flesh is greenish-yellow." In other words, it's the foot of Frankenstein's monster, in apple form.
Of course there are Minnesota's contributions, which are excellent. The Honeycrisp, which is perfectly named. (It would also be an excellent name for an efficient British spy in a Bond movie.) The U also made the SweeTango, a name that's less effective. OK, it's sweet; got that. It's tangy. And it has … Vitamin O? No, it's sweet-tango. It sounds like an apple crossed with a Latin dance, unless you pronounce it "sweet and go," which suggests the apple was crossbred with prunes. It's nutritious, and its gentle action works overnight!
Let us not forget the other U invention: the Zestar! The exclamation point is part of the trademarked name, and makes it look like a 1970s TV brand.
They're all great, but I bought my favorite: caramel.