I want Kanzi: a new Australian apple variety comes into its own

If you’ve spotted a new kind of apple on supermarket shelves recently, you’re not alone. Growers across 80 Australian orchards are predicting a bumper season for the Kanzi apple – a cross between the Gala and Braeburn varieties – with an extra 2m of the vibrant, red apples expected to hit our shelves in 2021.

Naturally sweet, juicy and crunchy, Kanzi apples are available from late March through to spring. They’re also ideal for cooking, because they can be used “without having to sneak in any added sweetness”, says cook and nutritionist Georgia Barnes.

Laurie Thompson, a third-generation grower at Battunga Orchards in Victoria, says: “For the past decade we’ve been planting extra trees to keep up with demand.”

The additional plantings, combined with ideal weather conditions of “low summer temperatures, with the cool nights and warm days”, is going to lead to what Thompson projects will be Australia’s biggest Kanzi season on record.

Growing apples is a long game. Trees take six years to reach a commercial yield, and eight before the farmer sees a return on their high cost of investment, says Nic Giblett from Newton Orchards, of Manjimup and Valleyview Organics, in the Southern Forests region of Western Australia.

Giblett is hopeful that an increased interest in Kanzi apples will pique curiosity among Australian consumers on both varietal recognition and seasonality.

“For some time now a lot of varieties are available 12 months of the year,” she says. Although it is possible to “keep most of the health benefits of those apples and a generally good eating experience … apples that are 10 or 12 months old, well, there’s just better ways of doing your calendar of apples.”

Giblett notes that a good supplier and retailer are also key to apple quality. She picks Kanzi in April and they’re generally on shelves until October.

Giblett started growing Kanzi in 2010. They were initially worried that consumers would demand Kanzi all year, as they expect of Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples. To her relief, that hasn’t been the case. The flow-on effect, she says, is that consumers are starting to push back on other apples too – asking why varieties like the Pink Lady are available all year.

“And I question that,” Giblett says. “I pick [Pink Lady] in May and we purposely do not supply straight off the tree. With Kanzi it’s perfect straight off the tree but Pink Lady needs time for its natural acidity to drop away and for the flavour profile to integrate. It needs resting in cool store.”

Giblett concedes that it can be confusing learning about the “seasonality of everything”. Her tip: choose your favourite varieties of apple, and a couple of other pieces of fruit, and learn a little about where they’re grown and the best time to buy them. “And perhaps don’t buy a Pink Lady 12 months of the year.”

Chef turned writer Paul West also hails the versatility of Kanzi and its role in a seasonal diet. “You can bake with them, eat them fresh and raw, but I really like eating a lot of coleslaw at this time of year, as the slow cooker comes out and the brassicas start to come on,” he says. It’s not just about utilising a single ingredient like a Kanzi: more about your whole pattern of eating shifting with the seasons.

“Even if something’s available year-round, the price that we pay for that availability is those natural peaks and troughs of flavour,” West says. Over the course of a year, those fluctuations mean the “superiority or inferiority that you get just kind of evens out to mediocre”.

Meanwhile: “A truly seasonal item, at its best, can be sweet, juicy, crunchy and tart, all at the same time.”