Researchers grow Swedish cider apples

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Published 29 November 2021 at 09.21

Domestic. At the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, a thousand apple seedlings are now growing, which are crosses between Swedish hardy apples and cider apples. Some of them will give new apple varieties that have enough bitter aroma for cider production.

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French and English varieties of cider apples do not work so well in Swedish latitudes, but now they have been crossed with hardy Swedish apple varieties.

Today, a thousand such apple seedlings are in the soil, and among these there are probably a number of future varieties that both grow well in Sweden and produce apples with the bitterness needed in cider production.

There is a difference between dessert apples, which are eaten fresh, and cider apples, which should preferably be bitter with less acid to give a good cider. Therefore, different kinds of apples are needed for different purposes.

– Traditional cider apples have more wild apple in the genome, and contain more bitter substances needed to get aromatic cider. The bitter substances affect the microorganisms' metabolism during fermentation and give a desirable taste and dryness when the sugar is fermented away, says Kimmo Rumpunen, researcher at the Department of Plant Breeding at SLU, in a press release.

Today, there are few cider apple varieties that are adapted to Swedish conditions. According to SLU, an evaluation of eleven new and older French and English cider apple varieties in the Swedish climate has highlighted both opportunities and problems. Many foreign varieties ripen too late here and they are susceptible to fungal diseases, and in addition the fruit often falls prematurely from the trees.

When dessert apple varieties are crossed with cider apple varieties, new aroma combinations appear in the apples.

– We have done cider fermentations and aroma analyzes where we see that crosses between dessert apple and cider apple give unique aromas and also wider taste profiles when they are fermented, so we are on the right track. We have laid the foundation for a good plant material for Swedish production of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages of good quality, and which can also create added value for existing industrial fruit, says Kimmo Rumpunen.

When can you drink cider made from these new apple varieties? When it comes to the new Swedish varieties, you have to wait a while.

– Variety development is always a long-term business. We have now produced more than a thousand seedlings, crosses between Swedish hardy apple varieties and selected foreign cider apple varieties. In three years, 2024, we expect the first plants to start flowering and bear fruit and then the evaluation will continue in further steps. In about fifteen years we can have a new variety for commercial cultivation. There are several methods that can make an apple seedling flower bloom earlier and speed up the process a bit, but it still takes a long time to produce a new variety, says Kimmo Rumpunen.