YAKIMA -- Paul Strater wasn't looking for apples when he went shopping at Wray's Food and Drug on Summitview Avenue recently.
But when the retiree spied the piece of fruit, he couldn't resist grabbing it. There in a display of pink lady apples was one distinctly different from the others.
A near straight line around the apple from stem end at the top to calyx end at the bottom separated a red blush on one side from a yellow-orangish color on the other.
He wondered just for a second if someone was playing a trick on him.
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"I saw the apple with the straight line down it," Strater said of the experience. "I had never seen one like this. I thought, I have to have it."
Turns out it was not a trick of humans but of nature, a result of a genetic mutation that occurred very early in the apple's development.
A check with Yakima County tree-fruit extension agent Mike Bush and Matt Whiting, a Washington State University researcher knowledgeable about fruit genetics, said the apple is rare but not unheard of.
"It is something that folks in the fruit industry would see a few times in a lifetime," Whiting commented.
The rare effect is called a chimera, named after the animal in Greek mythology made up of different animals.
Whiting said some kind of environmental trigger changed the expression of a gene for color during tissue development. What that trigger is remains unknown.
"It's hard to say, but something triggered it that said early on in this tissue that that gene or these few genes wouldn't function."