Newer apple varieties are out there, but often hard to find

Last week I wrote about apple cultivars we see in the supermarkets. Most have been around for a long time. Many have drawbacks that we’d like to see changed.

The problem is that it takes time to get new apples on the market. It’s the same with other crops like potatoes. Some varieties have been around forever.

‘Kennebec’ potato variety was released in 1941 and ‘Sebago’ in 1941. ‘Red Pontiac’ came on the scene in the mid-1940s and Luther Burbank began developing the ‘Russet Burbank’ way back in 1872. All these cultivars are still major players today.

Many newer varieties are on the market now, but they don’t have the name recognition older varieties have. Seed growers continue to plant the older ones largely because they know they can sell them. Farmers plant what the seed growers produce. Nobody wants to be stuck with something the public doesn’t recognize.

It’s the same with apples only it’s riskier. It might take ten years for new apple trees to reach marketable maturity. That’s 500 Saturday nights without a paycheck. Choosing an apple largely unknown to the public is taking a chance, no matter how good it is, especially when growers have little trouble moving their fruit already.

‘Red Delicious’ is the old standby of the Washington apple growers, and Washington is by far the leading apple-producing state. However, this cultivar is falling out of favor for many reasons. Keeping and general eating quality are the major two.

A new cultivar called ‘Cosmic Crisp’ is the rage of the apple industry. It was developed from a cross between ‘Honey Crisp’ and ‘Enterprise’. Fruit quality is excellent. ‘Honey Crisp’ is an early apple with great eating characteristics but only average keeping quality. Its color is also less than ideal.

‘Cosmic Crisp’ is an improvement on all fronts. It matures later and keeps extremely well. It’s the darling of the Washington apple growing industry, but don’t expect to find it growing in any local nurseries. Growers in Washington are the only farmers allowed to raise this beauty for the next ten years.

‘Opal’ is a bright yellow cultivar with ideal texture and keeping qualities. It also has somewhat of an exotic flavor, reminding many of a hint of pineapple and banana. ‘Arctic Golden’ is a new variety that looks and tastes like ‘Golden Delicious’ but has far superior bruising resistance and keeping quality.

‘Swee Tango’ is a new cultivar advertised as the loudest crunch of any apple. It has a funny name, but if you’re a fan of hard crunchy apples this one might be for you.

‘Dazzle’ was originally developed in New Zealand. It’s a large round deep red apple that is sweet and keeps well. This selection took over 20 years to develop.

Many other fine new cultivars are out there, but it’s likely to take some time before the old standby cultivars get replaced. Replacing trees is an expensive process. I suspect many new cultivars might get released directly to the general public to be grown in backyard orchards.


Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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5 Responses to Newer apple varieties are out there, but often hard to find

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Now that you mention it, old cultivars of apple are easier to obtain than newer cultivars are. I copied the old trees from the farm for my home garden, so have not actually purchased an apple tree since I got my ‘Golden Delicious’ tree when I was in high school. Yet, when I see them in bare root, many are familiar cultivars, and many are less familiar, but classic nonetheless. However, the fruit trees that I did purchase were not so easy to obtain. There are so many weird new plums out there, but the classic ‘Satsuma’ is now rare. All those weird hybrids, pluots, plumcots, apriums and such, really annoy me. I just want a good old fashioned French prune or ‘Moorpark’ apricot.

    • tedmanzer says:

      I used to like ‘sappa’ plums, but I haven’t seen any in years.

      • tonytomeo says:

        I do not believe I ever saw that grown intentionally. It was used as understock, so sometimes appeared where an old stone fruit tree was cut down or died. There were other cultivars and other species used as understock. I never bothered to differentiate between them.

      • tedmanzer says:

        I liked that one thought. It was large, round and black and the flesh was bright red. The only problem was that it was a little soft.

      • tonytomeo says:

        Yes, they are quite perishable. And, they make more fruit than can be consumed before they go bad.

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