The Opal® Apple Story | Dave Weil


Dr. Tupý was going to discard the 'UEB 32642' during his evaluation due to questionable cosmetics. He decided to keep the apple for further evaluation. During one of my annual trips to review the advanced selections of the breeding program, I asked Tupý to ship 'UEB 32642' for us to evaluate along with many others. During this evaluation WSU allowed us to import selections inside their quarantine site and evaluate the trees in a quarantine parcel in the Washington State University test site. We had two trees of 'UEB 32642' in the parcel. These trees were not well cared for an the result was that the trees overset. They were not watered, fertilized, or sprayed correctly so the fruit were much smaller than 120s. So it was almost impossible to evaltuate correctly and there remained several doubts about the apple from a cosmetic appearance, and fruit size.

During the evaluation I always collect fruit for storage tests. I took a black plastic garbage bag and put about 30 pounds of fruit inside the bag. The fruit was not protected so we can get a good idea of how the fruit survives poor handling. During the trip I scheduled a fly fishing visit to the Deschutes river in a river jet boat. I locked the fruit inside the car feeling that when I returned 5 days later I would find destroyed fruit. At this time of year the day temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. 

That means the temperature in the car is quite hot. The apples did not get soft or burse. Instead they were very good eating. This would be impossible to achieve with any other variety. That caught my attention. The next year we evaluated, Bill Howell asked if he could have all the fruit that we did not use for sampling. That cought my attention since Bill who is in charge of all the fruit evaluation and can find any selection he wants for eating choose 'UEB 32642'. At this point I decided to put out a commercial test row of about 100 trees at Broetjes. Within 2 years we had the first fruit. When farmed correctly the fruit was excellent in quality, size and had few problems with cosmetics. We were encouraged to pick the fruit about the same time as Golden Delicious which was too early for this variety. We had no idea that the fruit needs to be yellow and almost no starch. The late fruit on the tree seemed to never go soft or have storage problems. Ralph Broetje learned this little secret that the Opal® apple is really golden yellow. Then our fear was that a golden yellow apple would be perceived as an over ripe golden that is soft and mealy. were surprised that in our marketing trials the consumers did not connect Opal® with Golden Delicious and really made a new category with the Opal®. Later we learned that the stores

are wanting the difference in the color and appearance so that they are able to distinguish this great apple and not confuse it with Golden or other varieties. Our final test was the cosmetics. The russet in the stem end is normally a problem for our markets. We learned that this cosmetic perception of Opal® was incorrect and the consumer has now changed their buying desires from looks to flavor. Really, they almost do not see the russet and have accepted it as an apple trait. 

Now that the buyers are focused on flavor and the ability of Opal® Brand Apples 'UEB 32642' variety to deliver 12 months consistent quality we are off to the races.