Photo by David Evans
The Okana apples on the left are derived from Spartans (seen on the right) but develop and colour differently.
New Apple Finally Comes Out
The new Okana apple is finally out of the closet since it has received an official registration from the CFIA. Oliver farmer David Evans discovered the new variety amongst his Spartan plantings in 1998.
In the past 15 years he’s grafted onto other rootstock and now he has 900 Okana trees on his Oliver acreage.
Evans says he didn’t have any protection for the new varietal, so he had to keep news about the varietal quiet. He’s been selling apples from the Okana trees through the Fernandes Packing House in Osoyoos the past few years, but they were distributed as Spartan apples.
People all across western North America have been buying and eating the new variety unawares, but with the official registration in place that can’t happen any more. Says Evans, “Legally they have to sell them under the name of Okana now.”
Evans, who is 80 years old, is proud of having found and developed the new apple, quietly and with relatively few costs. He notes the last couple of new varieties put out by larger breeders have cost upwards of a million dollars and flopped while he did his with hard work, diligence and expertise developed from seven decades on apple farms.
He’s not worried about the Okana though, which he has sent off to four nurseries. As it was only a week ago he hasn’t heard back yet, but he expects to.
The apple goes a deep ruby red colour even on the top and bottom and has a firm, white flesh. He says they keep extremely well. In a root cellar, but without CA, they’ll keep crisp until February or March.
The flavour is sweet and he is convinced he can make this apple stand out. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t proven it out already.”
The first official tasting will happen at the Osoyoos Farmers’ Market on Saturday, September 21. Last year he sold 60 bins, some 48,000 pounds of the Okanas as Spartans, but this year he says mother nature hasn’t been quite as generous. A late spring frost and a hail storm has reduced his crop, Evans estimates, to 40 or 50 bins or between 32,000 and 40,000 pounds.
Evans is enthusiastic and confident about his new varietal. He says, “I just want to jump in feet first and prove it to the market.”