Ever since I became involved with my parents in the running of Redwood Orchards, the search was on for the elusive early season variety that pulled demand, looked, eat and kept well, and was easily grown! But it seemed this was a bit of a dream.
We tried hard with several new arrivals over a long period. Fiesta looked promising but fizzled out through poor returns, difficult handling, and mediocre looks. We continued planting various strains of Royal Gala mainly by default without any alternative, watching the hugh expansion worldwide and variability in appearance and taste. Cox Orange profitability became strained with low returns and yields per hectare. Goldens could be grown easily but became a struggle in the market. One bright light was Pacific Beauty, but I soon realised it was too difficult to grow commercially in our region.
I’d been casually watching the increasing areas of trial plantings Bill had forever been grooming , culling, and replanting. These trial blocks were often a bit of a pain to me in managing them and a problem basket during harvest. His focus was to find that dream early Apple with outstanding taste and looks, easy to grow and good paying….. Big call I thought.
About 10 years ago a couple of new promising looking early apples emerged out of his trial blocks, and we began to plant them out onto new blocks to have a serious look at them under commercial conditions. The rest is history, as the two finalists of that era are now the emerging new varieties BERICA & MONDAJU.
As the trial blocks increased in size I began to learn more about the apples. I soon realised that Both are really grower friendly. The tree growth habits are moderate vigour with flatfish branches before tying down and they are naturally heavy fruit setters.
I have not experienced any abnormally challenging plant disease issues, except for powdery mildew, which seemed to have a liking for both in trials so far. The trees and fruit are susceptible to black spot (scab) I suspect no different to gala strains, as I have seen an odd Apple infected.
Flowering is heavy with strong return bloom and petal thinning is necessary. I used ana at 15 mls at 60% petal fall, followed by a second application 10 days later at 10 mls for quite good results. Hand thinning to size was done early January.
The pest and disease programme is very much run of the mill, and only powdery mildew seems to require special interest with regular fungicide attention for good control.
Pollination was good with natural cross-pollination available from a range of nearby varieties, and fruit-set heavy necessitating additional secondary chemical thinning.
Size and foreground colour development is unspectacular until about a month out from harvest. They seem to “switch on” in spectacular fashion and it becomes obvious these are uniquely different varieties from the former Heritage Gala and Royal Gala , with its many shapes and strains. The appealing vivid pinks in the colours stand out alone like beakons in the orchard at this stage and move well ahead of Royal Gala. They are spectacular and hard not to keep your eyes off them.