By Cathy McKenzie, WSU Mount Vernon
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Cider apple qualities and consumer preferences will be evaluated thanks to a $40,000 “Emerging Research Issues” grant received this month by Washington State University researchers.
“The cider industry will gain a better understanding of the impact of growing environment, location and harvest method on fruit quality – and whether or not these differences are valued by the cider maker or detectable by consumers,” said Carol Miles, horticulture professor at WSU Mount Vernon and lead on the study.
The grant – from the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) – is one of eight awarded. The grants support innovative approaches to resolve significant issues – including social and economic factors – faced by the state’s agricultural industries. (Read about another grant-awarded project at https://news.wsu.edu/2015/02/13/fruit-quality-the-focus-of-new-biodegradable-mulch-research/#.VOI80010yfA)
Miles will evaluate fruit quality of several cider apple varieties harvested from four orchards in Washington to see if there are differences due to environment. She also will use a mechanical harvester at the WSU Mount Vernon research orchard to determine the impact of that technique on fruit and juice quality. (Read about related research at https://news.wsu.edu/2014/11/12/study-reveals-promise-for-expanding-hard-cider-industry/#.VOJAHk10yfA)
Miles has been investigating cider apple production at WSU Mount Vernon since 2007. For this study, her WSU project collaborators in Pullman are Peter Tozer, research associate in the School of Economic Sciences, and Carolyn Ross, associate professor in the School of Food Science.
Tozer will determine how cider makers value certain juice qualities such as tannin level. Tannin is a bitter-tasting organic substance present in some plant tissues. Cider apples have high levels of tannin compared to dessert apples, but it is uncertain if cider makers pay more for juice that is high in tannin.
Ross, who manages the CAHNRS Sensory Evaluation Unit, will evaluate the sensory qualities of cider made from juice from Miles’ experiments to see whether consumers can detect differences due to location or harvest method. Ross will compare two evaluation methods: a human tasting panel and electronic tongue technology. (Read more about the electronic tongue at https://news.wsu.edu/2013/09/24/wsu-researcher-evaluates-wine-with-unusual-partner/#.VOJAgE10yfA)