Bravo for new apples

Batlow Fruit General Manager John Power with a crate of Bravo apples.

The Batlow Fruit Cooperative has poured a lot of money into reinvigorating their orchards in recent years, and the investment is starting to bear fruit.

Last week they filled 80 bins with ‘Bravo’ apples, a new and in-demand variety that brings 500 per cent higher returns for growers than more common types like Pink Ladies. In fact, they are currently the most expensive apples in Australia.

According to General Manager of the Batlow Fruit Cooperative John Power, the Bravos have such a high price tag for a reason.

“The colour is so different – it’s this very dark colour, and that means it’s very high in antioxidants,” he explained.

“The crunchiness is high because it’s quite a thick skin, which means it’s got a lot of goodness in it for you.

“It’s reasonably acidic, but not quite as acidic as a granny smith. It’s also got a lot of sugar, so when you eat it, the sugar and the acid balance each other out. You still get the sharpness, but it’s sweet. It’s a different taste, completely.

“It eats really well, stores well – people can take it home and it’ll happily stay in the fridge for five or six weeks, staying firm and crisp. All around, it’s an exceptional piece of fruit.”

Bravo apples have a darker skin colour than consumers are used to.

The Bravo apple was developed by the same Western Australian outfit, the Department of Agriculture, that came up with the Pink Lady, and it took about ten years from conception to market. There are only 200,000 trees in Australia with the fruit on their branches, with 4000 of them in Batlow orchards.

Growers can only plant the Bravo apple trees with a special license. Then, there’s the amount of time it takes for the orchards to come to fruition – replanting an orchard and coaxing the trees into a high-yield maturity takes about four years, with a cost of about $150,000 per hectare.

But the co-op believes the time, expense, and effort that has gone into the Bravos will be worth it. The new and highly sought after apples also represent a different kind of opportunity – for the first time, they are going to start exporting the fruit to Asia.

“The first cabs off the rank will be Malaysia and Thailand because we can export to them, we don’t have any biosecurity issues,” said Mr Power.

“China we won’t, because China has fruit fly restrictions, so apples from mainland Australia can’t go into China. But they can go to Korea, they can go to Taiwan, and Singapore.”

The bulk of this Bravo harvest will go to the Sydney independent grocers market, where Batlow apples are in high demand. However, Mr Power expects the Bravos to do well in Asia for many years to come.

They have also invested in other new varieties in recent years, with the most notable example being the Jazz apple. They have also started grafting mature tree roots with more profitable new varieties, an innovative rejuvenating method that is quicker and cheaper than replanting an orchard from scratch.

This is the second year they have grown Bravo apples, but last year only seven bins of fruit ended up being saleable, next to this year’s 80.