Kinsei (Venus) Apples
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Kinsei apples are a medium to large varietal, averaging 300 to 400 grams in weight, and have a conical to square shape with broad, flat shoulders tapering to a narrow base. The apple's skin is thin, smooth, taut, and tender, varying in appearance depending on cultivation. Commercial Kinsei apples bear a uniform pale yellow to golden yellow hue, sometimes covered in faint speckling and lenticels. These apples are covered during cultivation to protect the skin from sun exposure. Uncovered Kinsei apples develop a red blush, and the skin becomes enveloped in russet dots and lenticels. Underneath the surface, the ivory to pale yellow flesh is firm, aqueous, and fine-grained with a crisp, succulent texture. Kinsei apples should feel heavy for their size and will release a rich, permeating fragrance. The apples are high in sugar and low in acidity, creating a primarily sweet taste with honeyed, fruity, and tropical nuances. It is important to note that Kinsei apples may have varying flavors, depending on how they are grown. Pale yellow Kinsei apples are primarily sweet, but they can also exhibit some sour notes, while bi-colored, uncovered Kinsei apples will have a sweeter, more concentrated taste.
Kinsei apples are harvested in the late fall and can be kept fresh in cold storage until early spring.
Kinsei apples, botanically classified as Malus domestica, are a Japanese variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The late-season cultivar was released in the mid to late 20th century and was developed as a premium commercial apple. The name Kinsei translates from Japanese to mean "Venus," and the variety is known by several descriptors, including Venus Golden apples, Venus apples, Sun Venus apples, and Crescent Venus apples in Japan and Weihai Golden apples, Weihai apples, and Huangpangzi Venus apples in China. In Japan, Kinsei apples are grown using two main methods: bagged or unbagged. Bagged Kinsei apples are fruits that are placed in bags as they are developing to prevent sunlight from turning the skin into a red hue. This bagging process keeps the fruits a pale yellow, and the skin remains thin, tender, and delicate. Most Kinsei apples are grown using this method, and the pristine, unblemished fruits are sold in commercial markets as high-end apples, oftentimes sold in the bag they were covered by in cultivation. The second method, unbagging, consists of the apples grown without bags, allowing the sun to shine directly onto the apple's skin. This increased sun exposure causes the skin to turn red and darken, also developing textured, rough spots across the surface. Kinsei apples grown unbagged are known as Sun Venus apples or Sun Kinsei. Sun Venus apples do not have the attractive appearance of commercially bagged Kinsei apples and are mostly sold by local vendors in the variety's growing region during the season. Despite their appearance, Sun Venus apples are said to have a sweeter flavor and are favored for their limited availability among some apple enthusiasts. The third and most rare variation of Kinsei apples is the Crescent Venus apple. These apples are bagged during cultivation, but a slash is made through the bag to reveal a small streak of flesh exposed to the sun. This portion of the skin turns red, creating a unique crescent-like shape on the apple's surface. Crescent Venus apples are labor-intensive and are only made in small quantities. This variation is challenging to find in markets and is mainly sold as a gift for family or friends. Regardless of their variation, Kinsei apples are primarily consumed as a fresh eating variety throughout Japan and China. The apples can also be incorporated into baked preparations.
Kinsei apples are a source of potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, fiber to regulate the digestive tract, and vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation. The apples also provide small amounts of copper to develop connective tissues, magnesium to control optimal nerve functioning, calcium to build strong bones and teeth, antioxidants to protect the cells against the damage caused by free radicals, and other nutrients, including iron, vitamin K, vitamin E, phosphorus, and zinc.
Kinsei apples have a sweet, fruity taste suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The variety is traditionally consumed straight out of hand and is eaten as a snack or light dessert. Kinsei apples can also be tossed into salads, served with cheeses on charcuterie boards, or sliced and dipped into caramel, melted chocolate, or nut butter. The apples can be used in any preparation calling for Golden Delicious apples or sweet varieties in general, and the crisp flesh makes an ideal accompaniment to breakfast dishes as a crunchy ingredient. Try layering Kinsei apples into sandwiches or blending them into smoothies for a sweet taste. In addition to fresh preparations, Kinsei apples can be incorporated into baked dishes, including cakes, muffins, bread, pies, crisps, and tarts. The apples can also be sauteed and caramelized in browned butter or sugar and used as a savory topping over ice cream or simmered into compotes, jams, and jellies. Kinsei apples pair well with fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, bananas, and stone fruits, spices including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger, maple syrup, vanilla, and fresh cream. Whole, unwashed Kinsei apples can be kept for several weeks at room temperature in a cool and dark place and for 1 to 5 months when wrapped in newspaper or placed in a bag in the refrigerator's crisper drawer.
Kinsei apples were named Venus for their golden hue. In Roman mythology, Venus is the goddess of love and beauty and was historically used to symbolize the strength of the ancient Roman Empire. Venus has been depicted in Roman architecture, carved into statues, painted on walls and canvases, and even placed onto coins. The goddess is also often portrayed holding an apple, alluding to the legend of the golden fruit. The golden apple tale begins with the Roman gods attending a wedding celebration. Eris, the goddess of strife and disagreement, was the only celestial being not invited, and when she discovered this, she was furious. In her anger, Eris created a golden apple that carried the inscription "to the fairest goddess." Eris appeared at the wedding and flung the apple into the crowd of gods and goddesses. When the goddesses read the apple's inscription, Venus, Juno, and Minerva fought over the fruit, each claiming they were the fairest. The apple was given to Paris, a human prince, and he was ordered to decide who was the fairest. Paris eventually gave the apple to Venus after she promised him love, specifically with the most beautiful mortal woman, Helen of Sparta. This tale of the golden apple is the precursor to the story of the Trojan War, as Helen of Sparta became the famous Helen of Troy, "the face that launched a thousand ships."
Kinsei apples are native to Japan and were developed by breeder Mr. Hajime Sato in the Aomori Prefecture in the 20th century. Mr. Sato began breeding the apple in 1954 from a cross between Golden Delicious apples and another unknown Delicious-type variety and conducted seedling research in Orikasa, Hirosaki City. In 1968, the variety was initially named Kinrei but was later changed to Kinsei in 1972 when it was registered as an official cultivar. After their release, Kinsei apples expanded in production and became a favored variety throughout Japan as a specialty apple, able to be molded into three different appearances, depending on cultivation. The variety was also introduced to China in 2011 and was planted in Weihai, a city in the Shandong province of northeastern China. Kinsei apples were renamed to Weihai Gold apples in 2018 in China and experienced rapid success after their introduction, winning the famous Weihai Apple Competition for several consecutive years from 2014 through 2019. Weihai is responsible for producing around 90% of the total Weihai Gold apple production in China, and the apples are sold as a premium variety, typically used for gifts. Today Kinsei apples are grown in Weihai, China, and in Japan's Aomori, Iwate, and Akita Prefectures. Aomori accounts for around 84% of the total production in Japan, followed by 15% in Iwate and 1% in Akita. The Kinsei apples featured in the photograph above were sourced through Mr. Hakaru Osanai in the Farmers Market at United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan.