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Limonka apples are medium to large fruits with a conical to circular, slightly flattened shape. The skin is thin, smooth, and glossy, appearing yellow-green when unripe, maturing to golden yellow hues with patches of red-orange blush. The skin is also slightly ribbed, dotted with lenticels, and covered in a layer of wax. Underneath the surface, the flesh is pale yellow to ivory, dense, fine-grained, and aqueous, encasing a central core filled with black-brown seeds. Limonka apples bear a subtle, pleasant aroma and have a sweet flavor mixed with a hint of tangy sourness.
Limonka apples are available in the fall and winter.
Limonka apples, botanically classified as Malus domestica, are a rare variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The golden fruits earned their lemon moniker for the light acidity contained within the flesh, giving the apple a hint of sourness when consumed. Limonka apples are also known as Reneath Burkhard, Lemon apples, and Yabloko Limonka, and the mature trees can reach up to 6 meters in height. The trees begin bearing fruit within 2 to 6 years, and the variety was once highly favored in Central Asian home gardens for its flavor, growth characteristics, and extended storage capabilities. In the modern-day, Limonka apples are challenging to find as they are not commercially cultivated and are mainly used to create new hybrid apples.
Limonka apples provide vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and potassium to balance fluid levels within the body. The apples also contain iron, calcium, and some citric acid, a mild acid that contributes to the fruit’s slight sourness.
Limonka apples are considered a dessert variety valued for their sweet, subtly tart flavor. The apples can be consumed straight, out of hand, or they can be sliced and tossed into salads, grain bowls, fruit bowls, and coleslaws. Limonka apples can also be blended into smoothies, juiced for beverages, or pureed into apple sauce. In addition to fresh preparations, Limonka apples can be incorporated into cakes, pies, tarts, crumbles, and other baked goods, or they can be cooked into jams, jellies, and preserves. Limonka apples are appreciated by home chefs for their bright flavoring and are mainly utilized for compotes. Limonka apples pair well with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, vanilla, maple syrup, and chocolate. Whole, unwashed Limonka apples will keep for 2 to 3 months when properly stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Limonka apples are closely associated with Almaty, Kazakhstan, as the specific terroir of the region is believed by experts to contribute to the apple’s sweet-tart, lemon-like flavor. The variety was once a prevalent home garden cultivar, but due to the influx of imported apples, especially from China, and new hybrids better suited for faster commercial production, Limonka apples have largely been forgotten. In Almaty, the apples are primarily found on abandoned plots of land or in old gardens. Select apple growers in the Almaty region still cultivate a few Limonka trees on their land for local sale. The Limonka apples featured in the photograph above were discovered at the Central Green Market in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Green Market, also known as the Green Bazar, is a location steeped in tradition where Almaty residents could buy and sell fresh local produce. In the present day, it remains a gathering place for vendors and Almaty residents to purchase quality produce, premade food, and specialty goods.
Limonka apples are native to Central Asia. The exact origin of the variety is unknown, but experts believe the cultivar was created from a natural cross between a renet simirenko and granny smith apple. Limonka apples were registered as an official variety with the Russian Federation in the mid 20th century, and the apples are commonly found in fertile forest growing regions. Today Limonka apples are difficult to find and are mainly grown in Central Russia and in the Kyzylorda, Almaty, and Zhambyl regions of Kazakhstan.