PRESCOTT — Broetje Orchards has a new apple that some consider a gem.
The Prescott grower only has a few boxes remaining of its second crop of Opal apples.
It’s an apple that hit it off with some Western Washington apple consumers. One retailer expects to sell out of them in the next week or so.
The Opal has been the best-selling apple at times, beating out Fuji apples at Haggen and TOP Food stores, said Lee Reynolds, produce director for Haggen and TOP Food, a grocery chain in Washington and Oregon.
And Opal apples are more expensive, ranging from $1.98 to $2.49 per pound, while most other varieties are closer to 59 cents to $1.99 per pound.
“They didn’t care about the price,” Reynolds said.
Broetje has the exclusive rights to grow and market the decade-old variety in North America.
One of the characteristics that sets the Opal apple apart is what Jim Hazen, business manager at Broetje, describes as its distinct bright yellow color.
Hazen said bicolor apples tend to be red, which isn’t a color seen on the skin of an Opal.
A sliced Opal also takes longer to brown than others. Hazen said that’s because it oxidizes at a slower rate. So an apple cut in the morning still will look fresh when it’s time for a child to eat lunch at school.
The Opal apple also is firmer and crisper than a golden apple, he said.
And it has a unique flavor that is sweet without being overpowering, Hazen said.
It’s a complex flavor that “you really have to taste to understand,” he said.
Reynolds compared the taste of Opal apples to wine, in that the apple has a great finish. It’s not like any other apple, he said.Reynolds said it’s become the apple variety his wife chooses at the grocery store.
Reynolds said Opal apples are every bit as good as Honeycrisp, and sometimes better.
It’s the second year Haggen has carried Opal apples. Reynolds said the apples sold out in the first year after about five weeks.
This year, the retailer had Opal apples in the produce area of its stores starting in March.
Haggen would like to carry Opal apples next year, but Reynolds said that it is up to First Fruits Marketing of Washington, a Broetje Orchards affiliate that markets the apple.
The coming fall crop will be the third that Broetje Orchards will sell. Hazen said last fall’s Opal apples, which included both conventional and organic, are almost gone. They only had a few boxes left this week.
The trees still are young, and haven’t reached their peak production yet, Hazen said.
The limited supply of apples only were available for sale by a few retailers, including Haggen.
It’s been enough of a success so far that Broetje Orchards plans to add more acreage, Hazen said.
The apple was developed in the Czech Republic about a decade ago, and was first marketed in Europe, he said. Orchard owner Ralph Broetje discovered it while looking for the “next big thing,” Hazen said.
Broetje Orchards was hoping for an apple that would compete with the club varieties such as Jazz and Pacific Rose apples, Hazen said.
It sounds like the Opal apple could be it.
* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org