What you see/experience: An apple with an icky, sandy texture; it’s mealy.
What it is: A mealy apple! It's been stored for a while and lost some of its moisture and texture with age.
Eat or toss: If it doesn’t bother you too much, keep eating. If it does, chop it and zap it in the microwave. The mealy texture will probably transform to something more akin to apple sauce.
Fresh apple flesh is crisp and plump, rewarding us eaters with a juicy snap when we bite into it. That’s because the apple’s cells are tightly packed with liquid. When you take a bite, you snap open cells and those juices to spill into your mouth (and maybe down your arm) in a delicious way.
As apples age, however, their cells lose moisture and the glue holding them together weakens. Further, while it may look solid, there’s a fair amount of air space within apple flesh (as much as a quarter of an apple's volume is occupied by air, as opposed to 5 percent in a pear, reports Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen). That means that these deflated, loosened cells have room to shift around. So, when you take that bite, instead of a juicy, cell-popping snap, you get a sloshy, mushy mass of intact cells.
But a mealy apple isn’t a lost cause. When I encounter one, I chop it and microwave it until it's all soft and juicy. The result is something like apple sauce. Macarena Farcuh, an assistant professor in horticulture at the University of Maryland, notes that high temperatures will open up cells and bring previously separated contents, including juices, together. Top with some cinnamon, granola and yogurt and your mealy apple is now a cozy breakfast!
Dr. Macarena Farcuh, PhD. Assistant professor in horticulture. College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. University of Maryland.
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. By Harold McGee. Simon and Schuster, 2007. P. 356.
Food Science: What Makes Apples Mealy. Emma Christensen. June 2019 TheKitchn.com.
The Tragic Mystery Of The Mushy Apple. Ariel Zych. November 2015. Science Friday.
Q: What makes an apple “mealy”? Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and University of Florida. June 2017. Nassau County Master Gardener Volunteer Posting for County Extension Director and Horticulture Agent IV Rebecca Jordi.
Talk about a mealy mouth!