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.