A New Apple Predicted to Succeed Honeycrisp
The New York Times reports that breeders in Washington state, the apple growing capital of North America, are predicting a successor to the highly popular ‘Honeycrisp’ apple that has shot to the top in popularity among consumers. A product of the University of Minnesota, ‘Honeycrisp’ is noted for its large size and crisp, sweet flavor. Now, a new apple called ‘Cosmic Crisp’ is predicted to sweep ahead of ‘Honeycrisp’, not only because of its crisp and juicy flavor but also because of its rich, dark red color and ability to hold its quality during long storage.
Americans have been falling hard for new apples; of the top 10 sellers in the 2014 crop, only three to post sales gains were recently-developed, premium-priced varieties: ‘Ambrosia’, ‘Honeycrisp’ and ‘Jazz’. Sales of a traditional favorite, ‘Red Delicious’ declined 15% and ‘McIntosh’ dropped by 9%. By comparison, ‘Ambrosia’ produced a 49% sales gain in a market that represents $3 billion in sales for farmers each year.
Washington state produces two-thirds of apples sold in the United states, and several new varieties are under review, but ‘Cosmic Crisp’ is looking like an all-time winner, according to Kate Evans, an apple breeder from Washington State University, judging by three criteria: texture, storability and balance of acid and sugar. She also evaluates new apples for firmness, crispiness, and juiciness. ‘Honeycrisp’ – introduced in 1991 – quickly set the standard for crispness and juiciness, even though it lacked points in other respects. In addition to poor appearance (a pale green skin blushed with red), it does not store well and is difficult to grow. Meanwhile ‘Cosmic Crisp’ is a cross between ‘Honeycrisp’ and ‘Enterprise’, a firmer, easier to grow variety. The resulting ‘Cosmic Crisp’ will retain its crispiness and juiciness for up to a year. Hybridized by Dr. Evan’s predecessor, Bruce Barrett, ‘Cosmic Crisp’ is expected to reach the grocery shelves in 2019. Available only to Washington state growers, the University had to hold a drawing in order to distribute its initial offering of 1.5 million trees – enough to plant 1,000 acres.
Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota has not been resting on its laurels and has announced two new earlier-ripening improvements over ‘Honeycrisp.’ They are ‘SweeTango,’ introduced in 2008, ‘MN55’ which will be given a more appealing name for introduction in 2017, and ‘Juici,’ to be introduced the same year.
Some of the best new varieties have come from Europe. Resembling a ‘Golden Delicious’ but with a better flavor, ‘Opal’ hails from the Czech Republic. The exclusive grower in the US is Broetje Orchards, which has planted 500 acres and markets the variety from November through May. ‘Red ‘Junami’ with an aromatic scent as well as pleasant sweetness, came from Switzerland and is available only from the Rainier Fruit Company during December and January. ‘Braeburn’ and ‘Gala’ both arrived from New Zealand, but a new cross between the two, called ‘Kanzi’, originated in Belgium and is grown exclusively by Columbia Fruit Packers for sales between January and March.
Dr. Barrett, who developed ‘Cosmic Crisp’ once called the Washington apple industry ‘dinosaurs’ for sticking with traditional apple varieties liked ‘Red Delicious’ and ‘Golden Delicious’, and now predicts that ‘Cosmic Crisp’ may soon account for a quarter of the apple industry of Washington state.