Ice Apples. Sounds fancy, right? You may be imagining an apple made entirely out of ice or one that’s an unnatural blue color, but these apples don’t look any different from your standard Fuji apples. It’s when you take a bite of one that you find the magic!
Like many great things, Ice Apples started as a bit of an accident. Doug and Jan Merriman run White River Farms in Wenatchee Valley in Washington. Their apple orchard is dedicated to Gala, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Fuji apples that they sell commercially. One year though, part of their Fuji crop was taking a while to ripen, so they left the apples on the trees even as the frosts set in for the year. When they were ready to pick, the Merrimans found that these apples left to freeze were sweeter and crisper than regular Fuji apples. Hence, Ice Apples were born!
This happy accident is the result of the water within each apple freezing while the sugars and enzymes inside do not. As the water freezes, the ice crystals destroy some of the apple’s cellular structure. This means three things: 1. It allows the natural sugars to better disperse throughout the whole fruit, 2. It gives new pathways for the enzymes to travel through so they can interact with more of the starches in the apple and create even more sugars, and 3. It makes these sugars easier to access when we take a bite. Instead of a solid bunch of cells that are starchy and hard for our saliva to break down, these already pre-broken down cells now have more sugar in them and are easier to digest. Both of these things means the apples taste sweeter to us.
It’s a tricky process though. Apples need to subjected to at least 3 days of below 40 degree weather in order to get this flavor boost, but if they dip too low and freeze for too long then the crop can be ruined. This makes these already unique apples even more special as they have to be kept in a constant balance between the right amount of cold to become an Ice Apple without being allowed to get so cold that they become unsalvageable. The additional sugar content also makes them unfit for commercial sale, as they go bad quicker and can’t be stored long term in warehouses as many supermarket apples are. These factors keep Ice Apples the ultimate farm-to-table apple as they simply can’t be produced in huge quantities, have an unpredictable harvest window that relies on the weather, and wouldn’t survive the standard processes of commercial sale.
While White River Farms is already a small operation that produces 200 tons of apples each year (in comparison, the United States as a whole produces about 4.9 million tons of apples annually) these Ice Apples are even more limited as you can imagine. Only 15 tons of Ice Apples were produced in 2021, and that’s after a large expansion! Al’s Garden & Home, a fellow garden center located in Oregon, was the exclusive place to get Ice Apples for the last 10 years. This year, we were lucky enough to be able to team up with Al’s to bring these one-of-a-kind apples to Moana Nursery. We’re excited to introduce our community to this delicious treat and spread the word of Ice Apples!
Ice Apples are now available at all 3 of our stores. Stop by to get 2 FREE Ice Apples per person, while supplies last!
If you have any questions, stop by any one of our three Moana Nursery garden centers or contact us online.