Fuji apples are medium to large. The thick skin of the Fuji apple is light red with a yellow blush, and is oftentimes lined with red vertical stripes. The Fuji’s interior creamy white flesh is dense, juicy, and crisp. Low in acid, the flavor is mild yet very sweet with hints of both honey and citrus.
Fuji apples (botanical name Malus domestica) are the successful cross of two American varieties, the Red Delicious and Virginia Ralls Janet. Fujis were first developed in Japan. Some say their name was given to them as homage to Japan’s most sacred mountain, Mount Fuji, but it is more likely they were named after Fujisaki, the location of the research center where they were developed.
Fuji apples contain Vitamins A and C, as well trace amounts of folate and potassium. They are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which has been shown to help prevent heart disease and promote healthy digestion. A medium-sized Fuji apple contains about 80 calories and is high in both water and sugar.
The thick skin and dense flesh of the Fuji apple holds up extremely well when cooked. Fuji apples can be roasted, baked, sautéed and boiled down into sauce. Add slices atop pizza or layer inside a quiche, or chop and slow cook chunks of Fuji apple to make jams, soups, and compotes. Their sweet flavor holds up when cooked as well; try added to baked desserts such as strudels and crisps. This sweet apple pairs well with sharp cheeses, such as sharp cheddar. Fujis store very well under proper cold, dry conditions.
Fuji apples unite two apple traditions—old American varieties discovered on farms and homesteads, and the modern way of breeding new apples at research stations. In fact, Virginia Ralls Janet apples, one of the Fuji’s parents, was first grown at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Fuji made the circuitous route from the early United States, to Japan, back to America, where it is a popular apple today.
Fuji apples were first developed in the 1930s at the Tohoku Research Station in Morioka, Japan. They quickly became one of the most commonly grown apple varieties in Japan and in the 1960s were made commercially available in the United States. Today, the bulk of Fuji apples are grown in Japan, China, and apple growing regions in the United States such as California and Washington State. They grow well in warmer climates suitable for apples.
- Apple trees need well-drained soil, nothing too wet. Soil needs to be moderately rich and retain moisture as well as air; mulch with straw, hay, or some other organic material to keep soil moist and provide nutrients as they decompose.
- Choose a sunny site. For best fruiting, an apple tree needs “full sunlight,” which means six or more hours of direct summer sun daily. The best exposure for apples is a north- or east-facing slope.
- Tree spacing is influenced by the rootstock, soil fertility, and pruning. Seedlings or full-size trees should be planted about 15 to 18 feet apart in a row.
Planting the Tree in the Ground
- Before planting, remove all weeds and the grass in a 4-foot diameter circle.
- After you purchase the tree, protect it from injury, drying out, freezing, or overheating. If the roots have dried out, soak them in water about 24 hours before planting.
- Dig a hole approximately twice the diameter of the root system and 2 feet deep. Place some of the loose soil back into the hole and loosen the soil on the walls of the planting hole so the roots can easily penetrate the soil. Spread the tree roots on the loose soil, making sure they are not twisted or crowded in the hole. Continue to replace soil around the roots. As you begin to cover the roots, firm the soil to be sure it surrounds the roots and to remove air pockets.
- Do not add fertilizer at planting time, as the roots can be “burned”. Fill the remainder of the hole with the loose soil, and press the soil down well.
- Most apple trees are grafted. The graft union must be at least 2 inches above the soil line so that roots do not emerge from the scion. The graft union (where the scion is attached to the rootstock) can be recognized by the swelling at the junction.
Minimize Pruning of a Young Tree
Pruning slows a young tree’s overall growth and can delay fruiting, so don’t be in a hurry to prune, other than removing misplaced, broken, or dead branches. There are several techniques to direct growth without heavy pruning. For example:
- Rub off misplaced buds before they grow into misplaced branches.
- Bend a stem down almost horizontally for a few weeks to slow growth and promote branches and fruiting. Tie down with strings to stakes in the ground or to lower branches.
Prune a Mature Tree Annually
Once an apple tree has filled in and is bearing fruit, it requires regular, moderate pruning.
- Prune your mature tree when it is dormant. Completely cut away overly vigorous, upright stems (most common high up in the tree).
- Remove weak twigs (which often hang from the undersides of limbs.
- Shorten stems that become too droopy, especially those low in the tree.
- After about ten years, fruiting spurs (stubby branches that elongate only about a half-inch per year) become overcrowded and decrepit. Cut away some of them and shorten others.
- When a whole limb of fruiting spurs declines with age, cut it back to make room for a younger replacement.
- Thin or remove excess fruit. This seems hard but this practice evens out production, prevents a heavy crop from breaking limbs, and ensures better-tasting, larger fruit crop.
- Soon after fruit-set, remove the smallest fruits or damaged ones, leaving about four inches between those that remain.
Apples are prone to pests. Here are some pointers:
- Keep deer at bay with repellents, fencing, or deer-resistant plants; deter mice and rabbits with wire-mesh cylinders around the base of the tree.
- Sprays may be needed for insects like Japanese Beetles, although one of the worst culprits, the apple maggot, can be trapped simply enough by hanging one or two round, softball-size balls—painted red and coated with sticky “Tangle-Trap”—from a branch in June through the summer. Reapply the sticky goo a time or two, as necessary.
- Fend off diseases by raking apple leaves, burying them beneath mulch, or grinding them with a lawnmower at season’s end.
- Pruning reduces disease by letting in more light and air.
- To keep insects away from apple trees, make a solution of 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 quart of water. Pour this mixture into a widemouthed plastic jug. Hang the jug, uncovered, in your apple tree.
Harvest patiently. After all this pruning and caring, be sure to harvest your apples at their peak of perfection.
- Pluck your apples when their background color is no longer green.
- Different apple varieties mature at different times, so the harvest season can stretch from August to October.
- At this point, the stem should part readily from the branch when the fruit is cupped in the palm of your hand and given a slight twist around, then up.
- If the apple is overripe and soft, use for cooking!
- Only store mid or late season apples. Early season varieties don’t keep and are best eaten soon after picking. Mid season varieties should keep for a few weeks, while late season varieties will stay in good condition for anywhere up to six months. Apples destined for storage must be perfect, with no bruises or blemishes that could provide entry points for rot.
A bad woman can’t make good applesauce. –proverb
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