Climate change is screwing up the apples, according to a new study.
Temperatures in Japan's two biggest apple-growing regions have been steadily rising by about 1/3 of a degree every decade, and the subtle change correlates with changes to the taste and texture of the apples grown there.
Apples are the third most popular fruit worldwide, according to the researchers. They are also often eaten raw and whole, making texture and taste more important than with other fruits that are processed before eating.
Japanese scientists have been studying apples since 1970 in the two largest apple-growing regions in Japan, and think that rising temperatures over the last 40 years have led to earlier blooming periods and higher temperatures during maturation and ripening periods.
These changes have changed the taste and texture of the crops: The sweet, crisp Fuji apple — the most popular apple in the world — and the Tsugara, an also sweet apple highly popular in Japan, are becoming sweeter, but softer, every year.
The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports on August 15.
The researchers collected data from orchards following governmental recommended farming and soil-management techniques and restricted their data to apples collected from older, more stable trees to reduce variability.
They then measured the concentration of acids in the apples (both Fuji and Tsugaru apples are already among the sweeter varieties of apple).
Over time, the apples were losing acids — making them sweeter — but also growing softer and less crisp. This could be bad for farmers, since, as the researchers noted, firmer fruits tend to last longer on the shelf.
Of course, these changes are so subtle they are most likely missed by most consumers, and besides, who really remembers exactly how a Fuji apple tasted in 1970?
But, nonetheless, changes in climate are changing our food. How do you like them apples?
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