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Akane apples are a small to medium-sized varietal, averaging 180 to 200 grams in weight, and have a round, conical, to oblate shape with flattened shoulders tapering to a narrow base. The stems are generally green-brown, fibrous, and short, and the stem cavity exhibits some russeting with ribbing on the shoulders. The fruit's skin is thick, chewy, and somewhat tough, ranging from matte to glossy, depending on the apple's maturity, with prominent lenticels. Older Akane apples develop a greasy layer on the surface, and the skin has a yellow-green coloring enveloped in light to dark red blush and striping. The apples may vary in appearance from pale to saturated red, and this variation is due to the amount of direct sun exposure. Apples picked in the middle of the tree that have not been exposed to light will be paler and more muted, while fruits in direct sunlight will exhibit a darker, widespread red blush. Underneath the surface, the white to yellow-tinged flesh is dense, firm, and aqueous, with a medium-grained texture contributing to a crisp and coarse consistency. The flesh also encases a small central core filled with tiny black-brown seeds. Akane apples have moderate sugar levels, around 11 to 12 Brix, mixed with acidity, creating a balanced but sprightly, sweet, and sharp taste with subtle floral notes and strawberry nuances.
Akane apples are available in the late summer through fall.
Akane apples, botanically classified as Malus domestica, are a Japanese variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The fruits grow on semi-dwarf trees reaching 3 to 4 meters in height and are an early to midseason cultivar. Akane apples were developed in the 20th as a fresh-eating variety that arrived in markets earlier than other commercial cultivars to extend the apple season. The cultivar is one of the first apples to appear in markets, marking the start of the apple season each year in Japan. Akane apples are also known as Tokyo Rose, Tohoku No.3, Prime Red, Primrouge, and Red Sky apples, and since their release, they have also achieved small-scale success in home gardens in Europe and the United States. Growers favor Akane apples for their productive, easy-to-cultivate nature, disease resistance, and the fruit's ability to hang on the tree without dropping. Akane apples were initially designed as fresh-eating apples, but over time, they have become valued as a multi-purpose fruit, utilized in both fresh and cooked culinary preparations.
Akane apples are a source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, calcium to build strong bones and teeth, and fiber to regulate the digestive tract. The apples also provide potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, copper to develop connective tissues, vitamin K to assist in faster wound healing, vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, and other nutrients, including manganese, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin E. The vibrant red hues within the skin indicate the presence of anthocyanins, pigmented compounds with antioxidant-like properties to protect the cells against the damage and oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Akane apples have a balanced, sweet-tart taste suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The variety is favored for consuming straight out of hand as it appears early in the season and provides a bright, zesty flavor enjoyed raw. Akane apples also do not last long once harvested, so immediate consumption and quick recipes are commonly employed with this fruit. Akane apples can be served on cheese plates, sliced and layered into sandwiches, used as a fresh topping over parfaits, or chopped into salads and slaws. For a sweet treat, try slicing the fruit and dipping it into caramel, melted chocolate, or nut butter. In addition to fresh preparations, Akane apples hold their shape when cooked and are popularly stuffed, wrapped in phyllo dough, and baked. The fruits can also be incorporated into pies, cakes, tarts, and turnovers or simmered into sauces. If the skins are left on when making apple sauce, the mixture will develop a faint but attractive pink hue. Beyond culinary uses, Akane apples are commonly infused into cider to provide a complex flavoring. They can also be thinly sliced into rings and dehydrated for extended use as a chewy snack. Akane apples pair well with brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, chocolate, raisins, spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, and nuts, including walnuts, pecans, and almonds. Whole, unwashed Akane apples should be immediately used after harvest for the best quality and flavor. The fruits do not last long and will only keep for about one week when stored in the refrigerator's crisper drawer. In professional cold storage, Akane apples can sometimes keep for 3 to 4 weeks.
Akane apples have acquired several names since their official release in the mid-20th century. Their registered name, Akane, translates from Japanese to mean "dark red" and was a moniker given to highlight the variety's aesthetically pleasing, saturated blush. The apple's original name Tohoku No. 3, was a geographical descriptor, as Tohoku was a region in northeastern Japan encompassing Iwate and the Aomori Prefectures, the two primary sites where Akane was developed. Outside of Japan, Akane apples are known as Prime Red and Primrouge, names that both showcase the apple's coloring, but the most mysterious moniker given for the apple was Tokyo Rose. There are many theories about how this apple variety earned this nickname, but it is unknown which explanation is true. Some experts believe the Japanese apple was named Tokyo for its origination in Japan and Rose for its red coloring. Apples are also a part of the Rosaceae or rose botanical family. A more obscure theory connects the name to the infamous nickname given to women in broadcast in Japan during World War II. American troops would listen to Japanese radio stations while stationed abroad during the war. The Japanese government employed select radio stations to read war propaganda to reduce morale among the American soldiers. Despite the intentions behind these stations, American soldiers often enjoyed the propaganda reports and the on-air personalities created by the women broadcasters. One broadcaster, in particular, Iva Toguri, was involved in several high-profile cases of treason with the Japanese and American governments due to her role as a radio reporter. Toguri was a Japanese-American who was accidentally stuck in Japan during the war and hosted a radio show that received worldwide recognition. She was the most famous of the women labeled as "Tokyo Roses." It is unknown why Akane apples would be associated with this name, but some experts think that the variety's arrival time into American markets overlapped with wartime events, leading Americans to label the Japanese apple with the war-inspired name.
Akane apples were developed in Japan in the 20th century through the country's apple breeding program in conjunction with regional horticultural research stations. During this time, World War II had just begun, creating political unrest, but apple breeders remained focused on their work, as developing new crops was seen as essential to provide food for troops and civilizations. Japanese apple breeders sought to create a new early-season variety that would appear in markets as a substitute for McIntosh apples, as McIntosh was struggling to produce fruits in Japan's climatic conditions. In 1939, apple breeders H. Niitsu and M. Muramoto conducted 42 crosses among 18 varieties and raised 4,656 hybrids at the Fujisaki Horticultural Research Station in Aomori Prefecture. In 1953, one of the new hybrid seedlings was selected, initially known as JW-50, and was the product of a cross between Worcester Pearmain, an English apple, and Jonathan, an American cultivar that had been one of the top varieties in Japan since its introduction in 1872. Scion wood of JW-50 was distributed to every horticultural research station in the apple-growing regions of Japan in 1955, including the well-known Morioka Fruit Tree Research Station in the Iwate Prefecture, where the seedling selected for commercial production was raised. JW-50 was renamed to Tohoku No. 3 during these trial periods at the research stations, and the name was later changed again in 1970 to Akane when it was registered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Akane apples saw some success in Japan as an early-season fruit, and the variety was also introduced to American and European markets sometime in the late 20th century. Today Akane apples are grown in the Hokkaido, Aomori, Yamagata, Nagano, and Fukushima Prefectures. They are also cultivated through smaller growers and home gardeners throughout Europe and the United States. When in season, Akane apples are traditionally sold through fresh markets, direct from growers, or through select retailers and distributors.
Recipes that include Akane Apples. One is easiest, three is harder.