Say Hello to the Apple That Never Browns
Stephanie M. Lee
BuzzFeed News Reporter
posted on Nov. 10, 2015, at 9:08 p.m.
On his tiny family farm, Neal Carter invented an apple he thinks can help improve global health, minimize food waste, and change the agricultural landscape forever. But will anyone actually eat it?
On a cloudless September morning, the world’s most infamous apple farmer sat down at a table and carved into a $5 million Golden Delicious.
Harvest had arrived early here in the verdant Okanagan Valley, 50 miles north of the British Columbia border, and fat, shiny apples were practically tumbling off their branches. But the apple Neal Carter was neatly slicing into here on his awning-covered, plant-lined patio wasn’t one of the ones his family orchard sells to distributors around the world — in fact, it wasn’t one any grocery shopper has encountered before.
This apple had been carefully grown somewhere in Washington state, the result of millions of dollars and two decades of labor. Break apart its unremarkable surface to reveal its flesh, wait long enough, and you’ll see what’s different: It remains pure white. It doesn’t start to brown right after you take a bite and leave it on the kitchen counter. In fact, it doesn’t start to brown until it molds or rots. It doesn’t bruise, either. Through a feat of genetic engineering, Carter’s apples hold on indefinitely to the pearly-white insides that inspired their name — the Arctic.
The Arctic was conceived by Carter’s company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, which he runs with his wife, Louisa, and four other full-time employees, newly under the umbrella of a large biotech company that bought it this year. It’s an intended solution to what Carter sees as two interrelated problems: First, millions of pounds of perfectly good apples get dumped every year because they look a little too bruised or brown, the victims of an instinctive human aversion to fruits and vegetables that aren’t smooth, shiny, and symmetrical. And at the same time, North American consumers, accustomed to 100-calorie packs and grab-and-go everything, have developed an impatience for food that can’t be quickly eaten. “An apple’s not convenient enough,” Carter, 58, with reddish hair graying at the temples, told me. “That’s the truth. The whole apple is too much of a commitment in today’s world.”