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Spencer apples are a medium to large varietal, averaging 7 to 9 centimeters in diameter, and have a round, oval, to conical appearance, tapering slightly at the base. The apples exhibit some ribbing, and the skin is semi-thin, smooth, and glossy. The skin also has a yellow-green base coloring, covered in large patches of red, pink, to orange blush, and prominent yellow lenticels. Underneath the surface, the white to ivory flesh is tinged with green and is aqueous, firm, dense, and fine-grained with a crisp consistency. The flesh also encases a small central core filled with tiny dark brown, tear-drop-shaped seeds. Spencer apples have a honeyed sweetness and a mildly acidic, tangy flavor combined with sprightly, vinous nuances.
Spencer apples are available in the fall.
Spencer apples, botanically classified as Malus domestica, are a mid-season Canadian variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The apples were developed in the early 20th century and were selected as an improved cultivar of the mcintosh apple, one of the most famous varieties in Canada. Spencer apples were released commercially as a multi-purpose variety, able to be eaten fresh or utilized in cooked preparations, and were initially favored by apple enthusiasts for their sweet flavor. Despite the variety’s momentary notoriety, it was eventually overshadowed by other modern cultivars as consumer demand shifted to tarter apples. In the present day, Spencer apples are a rare variety that is only grown on a small-scale through private orchards and select commercial growers in the United States and Canada.
Spencer apples are a source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and other antioxidants to protect the cells against free radical damage. The apples also contain soluble fiber to cleanse and regulate the digestive tract, vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, calcium to boost bone strength, and lower amounts of vitamin E, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and iron.
Spencer apples are considered an all-purpose variety well suited for raw and cooked preparations. The sweet, subtly tart apples can be consumed straight, out of hand, or they can be blended into smoothies, pressed into juice, or sliced and displayed on charcuterie boards. Spencer apples can also be chopped into slaws, tossed into salads, mixed into fruit bowls, or combined into grain bowls. In addition to fresh preparations, Spencer apples bear a firm flesh that holds well in crumbles, crisps, and cobblers. The apples are also utilized in pies, cakes, turnovers, muffins, and tarts, simmered into apple sauces, jams, and butter, or lightly sauteed with brown sugar and spices to create a savory mixture to pour over ice cream. Spencer apples have a versatile flavor complementing sweet or savory dishes, and the apples can also be hollowed, stuffed with nuts and dried fruit, and baked as a holiday dessert. Spencer apples pair well with citrus, cheeses such as cheddar, brie, and feta, meats including pork, turkey, poultry, and beef, and nuts such as pecans, almonds, pine, and walnuts. Whole, unwashed Spencer apples will keep 1 to 4 months when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place such as a cold storage cellar or the refrigerator. The apples may develop an unpleasant flavor and texture if left in storage for too long.
Spencer apples were named after Spencer Dyson, an orchard foreman who worked at the Kelowna substation within the Summerland Research Station during the creation of the Spencer apple variety. It was customary for the research station to name their new apple varieties with the letter “s” in honor of Summerland, also starting with an “s,” and these names became a type of branding for the station in the saturated apple market. Some of the other well-known varieties from Summerland include silken, sinta, spartan, and shamrock apples. Other research stations across North America also began branding their new apple varieties with a common consonance, with each station using a distinct letter. Throughout history, the Summerland Research Station was also known as the Dominion Experimental Farm, and in the modern-day, it was renamed the Pacific Agri-Food Research Center. The research center was established in 1914 and was created to study new plant and animal species. In 1959, the center also incorporated plant pathology, or the study of plant diseases, and developed the Canadian Plant Virus Collection. This unique collection features 160 different plant viruses with over 350 isolated strains and is one of the largest collections in the world. The Canadian Plant Virus Collection is used as a database for virus studies, and scientists can use the strains as reference material to test and research new methods to protect against outbreaks.
Spencer apples were developed in 1926 by breeder R.C. Palmer at the Dominion Experimental Farm in Summerland, British Columbia. It is important to note that the Dominion Experimental Farm’s name was changed to the Summerland Research Station in 1959 when plant pathology was added into the studies. The research center was also later renamed the Pacific Agri-Food Research Center in 1996 when it was combined with the Agassiz Experimental Farm, another local research site. Spencer apples were released to commercial markets approximately thirty years after their creation in 1959, and the variety was developed from a crossing between golden delicious and mcintosh apples. After their release, Spencer apples were cultivated on a small-scale through select North American orchards and home gardens in the 19th century, but the variety was overshadowed by modern cultivars in the 20th and 21st centuries. Today Spencer apples are considered somewhat obscure and are primarily reserved to orchards of apple enthusiasts in Canada and the United States. They are also sometimes seen in home gardens in England.
Recipes that include Spencer Apples. One is easiest, three is harder.
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