Fredericton — Two New Brunswick companies, Master Indian Spice and Coburn Farms, have with the support of a powerful British investor developed an apple that tastes exactly like butter chicken.
“You hold it, and you think OK, I’m in New Brunswick, holding an apple; you bite into it and you think OK, now I’m in Delhi devouring a succulent butter chicken, except this butter chicken is crunchy and juicy like an apple…because, well, it is an apple.”
That’s how Tahamid (Sunny) Zaman, founder of Master Indian Spice, describes the new breed of apple his company has created.
“Everyone wants a unique food experience, and we knew they were breeding cotton candy grapes in the U.S. It had to be possible to design a fruit that tastes like a curry. And what does New Brunswick specialize in? Apples.”
Zaman teamed up with Coburn Farms, and together they landed a heavy investment from British culinary magnate Aziz Ajani. Since then, for nearly a decade, fruit geneticist Hans Klausen of Fredericton’s agricultural research and development centre has worked on modifying the apple’s genome using a gene editing tool called CRISPR, ultimately creating what he calls a “Fruitkenstein embryo” containing genetic information from turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and several other herbs and spices found in butter chicken.
“Traditional methods of selective breeding were too cumbersome for an apple this revolutionary,” explained Klausen. “With CRISPR, I can change the organism at will, and in as many ways as my intellect can devise. The butter chicken apple is not just an apple, it is a masterpiece. It is beyond.”
Zaman’s ambitions surpass the butter chicken apple.
“We’re looking at producing a butter chicken apple juice, a butter chicken apple sauce,” he said, adding that, “…these products are easier to copy since butter chicken ingredients can be added to any apple sauce or juice not made from our apple.”
As for reactions to the apple, opinions are mixed but mostly positive.
“I won’t be baking any pies with it,” said Rhonda Glenmore of Gagetown, one of the few lucky customers who got to taste-test the first yield, “but I’d eat it at suppertime, cooked, with some scones and butter.”
“I love it!” said JP Leblanc of Tracadie. “It’s like turning on your water faucet and finding out it produces gravy!”
Zaman concedes it is a novelty. “I know it will not be everyone’s favourite food,” he said, taking a bite, his face registering bewilderment for a fraction of a second, “but we’re proud of this. This is going to change the game. That’s something we New Brunswick entrepreneurs are doing more and more.”
Read more about the butter chicken apple here.