Shakespeare and his contemporaries called these gems “leather-coats.” The Victorians prized them for their look, texture, and taste, and often depicted them in works of art. And lucky for us, russeted apples are still a special treat that we can enjoy today.
Russeting is a brownish, corky or netlike texture that ranges in coverage from a small patch, typically near the top of the apple, to most of the apple’s surface, the latter being less common. In apples, russeting typically occurs in heirloom varieties, such as Gravensteins, Pippins, and Jonathans. There are also apples that are named for this characteristic texture, including Roxbury Russets, Egremont Russets, Merton Russets, and many more.
Aside from naturally russeted varieties, russeting is commonly due to weather conditions such as moisture that develops on the fruit as it grows, with factors such as a late frost and/or spring humidity playing a role.
The russeted patches are not only edible, they tend to have a nutty flavor. You may also find this aesthetic feature on Asian pears and certain European pear varieties, such as Bosc and d’Anjou pears.
So next time you see some russeting on your fruit, savor it like Shakespeare.
Gretchen Bay is creative services manager for The FruitGuys, and a big fan of leather-coats.