Field of Science

Growing Apples - Japanese style

Having grown up in the apple country of upstate New York, apple farming is something the Phactor is very familiar with, and it bears virtually no similarity to apple farming in Japan. The amount of hand labor used in Japan to produce big, perfect, pretty apples would price apples right out of the market virtually anywhere else. First you hand pollinate the flowers, than you cull the crop so the tree produces fewer but bigger apples, and then you double bag to flowers to protect from insect pests and damage, yes, that's right you bag each and every apple. Near the end of the season the opaque bag is removed leaving an innter translucent bag so that the cream colored apples with ripe into a uniform color. The only fun thing about this is applying an opaque stencil to the cream colored apples will produce a pale design in the apple's skin (image borrowed from the link above), and even this is done in the USA in a few boutique orchards, and as a special sales item. The apples produced by all this attention and hand labor are big, perfect, and beautiful, but is it really worth it? The Phactor wouldn't have time to do all this even to his mighty two tree orchard let alone hundreds of trees. So does this end up being decided by the consumer, whether you want to pay alot for a few perfect apples, or whether you'd want more apples for less money, and ignore the uneven coloring or a few blemishes? Even in Japan this may not be a sustainable form of agriculture.


Joseph said...

I still remember seeing my first Japanese orchard -- and wondering what all the little bags hanging from the trees were. It is a stunning amount of labor, but the quality at the end is amazing. I've never eaten better peaches than can be had in Japanese super markets. Of course they cost the equivalent of $4 each... but SO worth it.

Anonymous said...

I would rather accept this if presented as a form of art, i.e. as the fuit version of flower gardening. In terms of commercial production and in particular of sustainability-oriented consumer education, it's a nonsense. A fruit with a small blemish or "imperfect" shape is as good as any other fruit.

The Phytophactor said...

How interesting an idea from meristemi. Had not thought of this as a "grow the perfect fruit" contest gone amok, but it would be no different than the "grow the biggest pumpkin" type of pampering. On the last point we agree completely.