We are a family that loves apples, but I also happen to have birthed children who apparently are too delicate to actually bite into one.
Every time I pack a whole apple in my kids’ lunches, it comes home uneaten. When I inquire as to why they left such a wholesome selection from the earth in their lunch box, I get the same response: “Mooom, you know I can’t bite into apples.”
Ah, yes. How foolish of me. How silly that evolution hasn’t caught onto the fact that modern-day kids aren’t using their teeth for anything other than organic, free-range fruit snacks yet. The point is, my kids love apples and I love packing them for school lunches … but I don’t love the work of cutting them up and figuring out a way to keep the slices fresh.
By the time my kids get to lunch, their apple slices tend to be brown and gross. Usually, I sprinkle a dash of lemon juice on them to help keep them from turning, but then I run the risk of my kids complaining about the tartness, and many times, the apple slices turn brown anyways.
While I’ve frequently lamented that there doesn’t seem to be a better way, Mother Nature was busy coming up her own solution that’s even better than lemon juice. Enter the Opal apple — an apple that claims to resist browning naturally.
When I first heard about Opal apples, I was incredibly skeptical. An apple that doesn’t brown? What sorcery could this be? Surely this has to be some kind of mass-engineered GMO monstrosity, right?
Nope. The people behind Opal apples assure me that it’s a non-GMO apple and that the incredible anti-browning capabilities come as a result of the apple’s natural resistance to oxidation, the process that causes browning.
Chuck Zeutenhorst, general manager of FirstFruits Marketing of Washington, the exclusive grower and shipper of Opal apples in North America, explains that Opal apples are naturally low in an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, or PPO, which causes oxidation (the browning process).
“When an apple is cut, bitten, or bruised, oxygen is introduced to the flesh of the apple and the oxidation process begins as the PPO enzymes react,” he says. “Opals resist oxidation because the apple is naturally very low in the presence of PPO enzymes – this is what gives the Opal its non-browning quality.”
Zeutenhorst also adds that the Opal was cultivated by a farmer in the Czech Republic, and that the non-browning quality was actually discovering during the sampling process. So essentially, surprise! You just made a super cool apple that doesn’t brown!
An apple that doesn’t brown seemed too good to be true, so I put it to the test. I sliced some apples just before 9AM and set them out by our kitchen window to see how they would fare in the open air.
By 10:30AM, the apples were still looking fresh, although my 3-year-old had discovered them and helped herself to a few slices.
I sliced up the rest of the apple and continued to let it sit. By 1PM, the apples still hadn’t browned:
And when I got home that night at 6:30PM, miraculously, the apples still looked like they were in pretty good shape, although they were definitely a little soggy. Still, an impressive feat for surviving a whole day in the sunny window and a few preschooler nibbles.
I also had my kids test the apples at lunch for me. I sliced them up in the morning before they left for school at 7:30AM and by the time they had lunch around noon, they all reported that the apples were still fresh and delicious … and most importantly, not brown.
Opal apples are grown exclusively at Broetje Orchards in Washington State, the nation’s largest distributor of apples. They are available in stores in every state and also shipped to Canada and Mexico. Their harvest season begins in October and the apples are available through June, or while supplies last. And according to Zeutenhorst, the team behind Opal is currently working on extending the season so the apples will be available year-round.
The company also runs the Opal Apple Youth Make a Difference initiative which supports youth-based initiatives in food security and politics, nutrition and education.
“The Opal apple is known as the apple with a purpose because each year we use a portion of sales to support youth-led initiatives that work to address food-related issues like hunger, nutrition and food security through the Youth Make a Difference program,” says Zeutenhorst. “This year, we’ve offered a unique fundraising opportunity to chapters of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) to raise money for their chapters to support causes in their local communities.”
All in all, the Opal apple lives up to its claim as a non-browning apple. And if you’re a parent of children like mine who prefer apple slices in their lunches, we might just be looking at a forever changed lunch game. Because as the old saying goes, “A non-brown apple a day keeps the fruit snacks away” … or something like that.