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August 24, 2009

Is the "Honeycrisp killer" apple ripening?

This is some from one of the apple stories I have in today's paper. This is a juicy deal, so make sure you have a napkin handy. Heh.

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Ev4zdbq5mhemx8824200991525 “The best apple I’ve ever eaten in my life.”


That’s a strong statement from Dennis Courtier, a self-described “apple geek” and the president of Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City.


Is he talking about Honeycrisp, the wildly popular apple created by the University of Minnesota and now the official state apple?


Nope.  


“It is definitely better than Honeycrisp,” said Courtier, munching on a slice of apple while standing among rows of trees just reaching maturity.


Despite heavily marketing and growing Honeycrisp himself for many years, he is preparing what he believes is a new contender for the top spot on the apple tree, a “Honeycrisp killer,” if you will.


The name of this hardcore up-and-comer? SweeTango.


Don’t despair, Honeycrisp fans. With Honeycrisp being grown on about 6 million trees, it will be around for a long time. 


Being planted in such profusion is part of the reason Honeycrisp might be taken down a notch or two. Described as “a bit fussy” and “very site-sensitive” by the U of M’s research pomologist (apple breeder) David Bedford, it must be planted in a cold climate to produce the best-tasting fruit.

081809denniscourtierpepinheightsjk

As its popularity grew, the gigantic West Coast apple growers decided they should plant the Minnesota upstart, in a big way. 


That has resulted in what Courtier and Bedford see as a steady deterioration of the overall quality of the Honeycrisp apples rolling onto the market. 


A bad apple or two can spoil more than the bunch. It can ruin a variety’s reputation, they say.


Honeycrisp trees grown in cold climates, such as the orchards in Minnesota, still produce quality fruit.


Looking for the next hot apple variety, Courtier turned to the U of M and discovered SweeTango.


With only a test number and no name, the early trees grew in Pepin Heights’ research and development plot. Soon the apple’s taste, texture and site flexibility marked the nameless apple as one to watch.


Courtier decided to plant the new variety in larger numbers as well as licensing the fruit with a name that he created himself.


This apple season, which is just starting (Pepin Heights’ retail store opened last week), will mark SweeTango’s debut.  


Don’t expect to buy bushels. Only a small number will be available. Look for production to grow 20 percent to 40 percent a year with “plenty” of SweeTango being available in 2011.


Does Bedford, who often tastes up to 500 to 600 apple a day, agree with Courtier’s assessment of SweeTango?


“It might not be a Honeycrisp killer, but it is a competitor. It is the only apple that holds its own in a blind taste test against Honeycrisp,” he said. “I’d say they are one and two of the best-tasting apples. It is just that, depending on the day, I’m just not sure which is one and which is two.”


Comments

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you expect me to wait that long?!!! why even bring it up?

Pepin Heights had a few of the new no name apple available for sale on Monday.
Don't know how long they will last.

on my way!

Mmmm. Dang, now I want an apple.

By the way, the part of the article about how the taste of apples goes down once they become widespread is dead on. A number of my (formerly!) favorite varieties usually aren't very any more now that they are more widely grown.

Stopped by Pepin Heights store in Lake City today and I was surprised to find they had SweeTango available. It was crazy busy in there and they could not fill the bags fast enough. I grabbed my six pounds and headed out to the car to try one right there on the spot. Now maybe I'm just forgetting how great apples are straight from the orchard, or maybe the hype is working on me or something, but this has to be the best apple I've ever had, ever. I ate three right there and have had about three more through the day. They are really good. The lady at the store said honeycrisp could be there next weekend, but don't count on it - they don't pick until they are ready.

I stopped at Apple Ridge in Mazeppa on Saturday. They are limiting the quantities available at this time because of all the buzz. I thought the pulp was nice and sweet but the skin is a little tougher than on the honey crisp. I'll wait til the honey crisp are out and try to compare side by side fresh from the orchard. Those of you who may not have been to an orchard lately, go this year...it's always a great stop and well worth it!

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