Mori Kagayaki Apples
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Mori Kagayaki apples are a medium to large variety, averaging 370 to 400 grams in weight, and have a round to cylindrical shape with flat, sloping shoulders tapering to a narrow base. The apple’s stem is long, slender, woody, and dark brown, connected to the fruit through a wide calyx. The skin ripens from green to golden yellow and has a smooth, taut, matte, and subtly waxy surface. The skin is also dotted with a few tiny black lenticels and blushed with faint patches of red when directly exposed to the sun during cultivation. Underneath the surface, the ivory to yellow flesh is coarse, dense, firm, and aqueous, with a crisp and crunchy consistency. The flesh also contains a small central core filled with tiny dark brown seeds. Mori Kagayaki apples emit a refreshing aroma when ripe and have a high sugar content, around 15 degrees Brix, creating a rich, sweet, and mild taste.
Mori Kagayaki apples are harvested in the mid-fall through early winter, with a peak season in October through November in Japan.
Mori Kagayaki apples, botanically classified as Malus domestica, are a Japanese variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The mid-season apples are a rare cultivar developed in the late 20th century and were released as a new commercial variety ripening three weeks earlier than Fuji apples. Growers favor Mori Kagayaki apple trees for their vigorous nature, high yields, and unique coloring. In Japan, apples that develop a red skin tone traditionally dominate commercial markets, but yellow-skinned varieties are increasing in notoriety. Mori Kagayaki apples are primarily yellow but develop an attractive, light red blush on sun-exposed surfaces. This makes the variety appealing in retail markets, and the apple’s arrival in the mid-season provides diversity in a red-saturated apple market. In the modern day, Mori Kagayaki apples are a seasonal variety sold in Japan as a premium fresh-eating cultivar.
Mori Kagayaki apples are a source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, vitamin E to reduce inflammation, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and calcium to protect bones and teeth. The variety also provides magnesium to control nerve functions, vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, and other nutrients, including zinc, vitamin K, boron, and copper.
Mori Kagayaki apples have a sweet taste suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The variety is primarily consumed straight out of hand and valued for its juicy, crisp flesh. Mori Kagayaki apples can be incorporated into any preparation calling for sweet apples and are often sliced and served on appetizer platters, chopped into salads, or shredded into slaws. The variety can also be cut into pieces and tossed in a mixture of ground sesame seeds, sugar, soy sauce, and sake as a sweet and savory snack or dipped in caramel, nut butter, or melted chocolate. In addition to fresh preparations, Mori Kagayaki apples are occasionally baked into cakes, pies, fritters, dumplings, and turnovers. In Japan, apples are simmered into fillings for sweet buns, daifuku mochi, and other pastries. Apples are also cooked into jams, jellies, and sauces. Mori Kagayaki apples pair well with spices such as ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, herbs including mint, cilantro, basil, and parsley, brown sugar, heavy cream, maple syrup, caramel, vanilla, and fruits such as grapes, melons, strawberries, blueberries, and peaches. Whole, unwashed Mori Kagayaki apples will keep for 10 to 14 days at room temperature and for 1 to 3 months when stored in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Mori Kagayaki, occasionally referred to as Mori No Kagayaki roughly translates from Japanese to mean “Shining Forest” or “Shining Woods.” Mori means “woods” or “forest,” and Kagayaki means “shining,” a descriptor given to the fruit’s yellow coloring. Mori Kagayaki apples shine brightly when lit with the sun in orchards and have a glistening, glowing presence. The variety was named for its radiant appearance, and the moniker is used commercially to attract consumers to purchase the fruits.
Mori Kagayaki apples are native to Japan and were developed at the Morioka branch of the National Agriculture and Food Research Institute’s Fruit Tree Experiment Station in the Iwate Prefecture. The variety was created from a traditional cross between Gala and Tsugaru apples, and the seeds were sown in 1982. Tsugaru apples were chosen as a parent variety for their early ripening abilities and flavor, while Gala apples were selected for their juicy texture and taste. The seedlings first fruited in 1988, and after several years of cultivation, the apples were named Ringo Morioka No. 63 in 2002. The variety passed certification in 2009 and was registered in 2010 as a new commercial cultivar under the name Mori Kagayaki. Today, Mori Kagayaki apples are only grown in Japan and are produced in small quantities in the Aomori, Akita, and Iwate Prefectures.