The Making of an Apple

The apple industry responds to consumer demand.

Red and Yellow Delicious were the dominant apples for years, gaining favor for their shipping and storage qualities. But sturdy as they are, these apples taste kind of one-dimensional and have a mealy texture, not in sync with today's preference for complex flavor and crisp texture. So the American apple industry is responding with varieties like the Honeycrisp.

This apple was created at the University of Minnesota by cross-breeding a Macoun and a Honeygold. Tim Byrne, VP of Pepin Heights Orchard in Lake City, MN, describes the offspring as "an apple that explodes in your mouth when you take a bite. It's crunchy, juicy and aromatic all at once."

Before the Honeycrisp was released commercially, it went through intensive sensory evaluation at the university. In 1992, it was offered to orchardists to plant and market and today, it's a big hit with both consumers and chefs. Now Pepin Heights is going for even greater crunch by marketing a cross between the Honeycrisp and the Zestar. This new baby, currently dubbed the "MN 1914," has received rave reviews with taste panels. What's more, it thrives in cold Northern climates, ripens early in the season, stores well and is a good looker. Pepin Heights has hired a branding company to give the new apple a catchy name and trademark; the fruit should be ready for commercial production in about two years.

"There are 45 orchards from Nova Scotia to Washington State that have signed up to grow the apple," Byrne says. "The first 100 bushels will be tested this fall. They will go across the grading line, and then we'll drive the apples around in trucks to see how they hold up in transit." Byrne's goal is to have these apples available only from October through April so flavor and texture will be at their peak.

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