Appleseed WA 38
May 8, 2017 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Washington Apple Growers Sink Their Teeth Into The New Cosmic Crisp - "He doesn't remember the day in 1997 when he took a bite of an apple from the tree that was labeled WA 38. But it must have made a good impression because he and his colleagues kept it around. It's still there, in a research orchard near Wenatchee. Most of the orchard is filled with rows of young seedlings, the latest products of Washington state's breeding program. At the far end of the orchard, though, stands the original WA 38 'mother tree'. Every one of the millions of Cosmic Crisp trees now growing in orchards and nurseries is a clone of this tree."
posted by kliuless (47 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Never heard of Cosmic Crisps before this, but I'll definitely look for them. I'm not as big of a fan of Honeycrisps as everyone I know seems to be, but this year we discovered Envy apples, and I'm having a hard time making do with the choices I can seem to find now that Envys (Envies?) are no longer available. The biggest selling point for me about Envys, though, which I don't see mentioned about Cosmic Crisps, is that they don't turn as brown. Which is a big deal when you've got a kid who's always looking for reasons to reject foods.
posted by Mchelly at 7:00 AM on May 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


Every one of the millions of Cosmic Crisp trees now growing in orchards and nurseries is a clone of this tree.

No way that could go wrong...
posted by kjs3 at 7:05 AM on May 8, 2017 [8 favorites]


Yeah, because monocultures are the BEST!

(Gros Michel, I remember you!)
posted by Samizdata at 7:06 AM on May 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


Isn't cloning pretty much how all cultivated apples roll, though?
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:08 AM on May 8, 2017 [40 favorites]


Isn't cloning pretty much how all cultivated apples roll, though?

yes.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:12 AM on May 8, 2017 [17 favorites]


Isn't cloning pretty much how all cultivated apples roll, though?

Yes, apples don't inherit their parents characteristics. Wikipedia calls it "extreme heterozygous". I don't understand the mechanism, but it means that if you grow an apple tree from seed you'll almost always end up with a crab apple tree.
posted by papercrane at 7:15 AM on May 8, 2017 [6 favorites]


Envy has a painfully short season. :(
posted by elsietheeel at 7:17 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's why apples in America, before Prohibition, were used almost exclusively for hard cider. They might not be edible, but they were potable!
posted by rikschell at 7:18 AM on May 8, 2017 [6 favorites]


Many years ago as a young lad, I got to take a tour of the Canadian government test farm in the Okanagan with my father's friend. I still remember it as a surreal experience, walking an orchard, pulling apples, taking a bite and then tossing them to the ground. There were so many criteria - not only the obvious, that apples needed to be tasty and juicy and crisp and not mealy. There was one promising one that was too big for lunchboxes, another that was too small. Some were too fragile, or difficult to grow, or attacked by worms, or easily damaged or just ugly. I remember taking a bite of one that seemed like the perfect Goldilocks apple, not too tart or too sweet, not too big or too small. It was a great apple, and my dad asked why it wasn't on the market. His friend told us to look down - the spot where we had bit had already turned almost completely brown.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:19 AM on May 8, 2017 [29 favorites]


Washington apples, now? *spits seeds onto rich New York soil*
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:20 AM on May 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


I wonder if the Cosmic Crisp is related to the Honeycrisp? I love me some Honeycrisp, but I could do with something similar that wasn't $5/lb...
posted by The otter lady at 7:29 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm old enough to remember Red Delicious apples tasting good, so I'm giving this a bit of side-eye. I have several reactions.
This is exactly why public research is so worthwhile. I'd like it if more was done to preserve old varieties; that would also be a good use of public funds.
What's the sugar content? Many fruits & veg are being bred for high sugar, and even apple sugars have implications.
Is it a good pie apple? Does it keep well?
posted by theora55 at 7:33 AM on May 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


TUM, WA has supplied the western US with apples for decades.
posted by brujita at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't understand the mechanism, but it means that if you grow an apple tree from seed you'll almost always end up with a crab apple tree.

An applebreeder who posts as Skillcult on youtube calls bullshit on this, naming his new apple grown from seed "Bite Me Michael Pollan" to try and reverse some of the damage from the misinformation in the book. He is now offering scions for people who want to try his new public domain seedling apple. Here's a video on how he chooses breeds to cross.
posted by 445supermag at 7:51 AM on May 8, 2017 [12 favorites]


Yeah, because monocultures are the BEST!

Yup! Just ask all those elm trees that died.
posted by Melismata at 7:56 AM on May 8, 2017


I'm old enough to remember Red Delicious apples tasting good,

What parallel universe did you step out of ?

I'm happy to see red delicious properly slagged in the article (and I swear golden was also mentioned in the on-air version of this story.. ).

They don't touch on "Empire" apples -- another apple variety with state specific roots (IIRC, wasn't licensed to anyone outside of NY state, like this apple). I also seem to recall empire's being over-planted, and demand wasn't what the growers counted on, causing pricing issues etc. (Since these seem to be heavily over planted as well.. )
posted by k5.user at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm old enough to remember Red Delicious apples tasting good

I'd believe it. Granny smith apples have definitely gotten larger and less tart and flavorful than when I was a kid. I've bought some apples labelled granny smith that weren't even tart in the least.

Though I am curious: if apples varieties are clones, how does this happen?
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:04 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


The club apple thing is entirely because University of Minnesota didn't have much control over the Honeycrisp. They gave them away to anyone, which meant that a lot of growers planted them in inappropriate areas - they need upper Midwestern weather, cold Falls and not too warm in the summer, or the apples don't turn out as well. The resulting inconsistency in apple quality and inevitable glut on the market meant the Honeycrisp "brand" was diluted somewhat. They're still premium apples, but not at the same price point as the club varieties. Personally, living in Minnesota, I still like the apples, but you can be darn sure I look to see where they are grown before I buy them.

I'm of two minds here. On the one hand, "club" apples have led us to a new golden (delicious) age of apples, where I can reliably find more than 3 types of apple in any given store. On the other hand, corporate ownership of a given variety, forever? WTF. Should a private citizen snip a bud off of one of these trees and graft it onto one of his or her own crab apple trees, I'd not feel the slightest bit of concern for the grower. (Commercial apple piracy? Bad. Personal borrowing of a cultivar, for your own home? Civil disobedience for the good of humankind.)

Now then, apples appear to be well on their way to success. Can someone please clue in the folks who grow peaches and pears? When I buy a peach I want to know a whole hell of a lot more than just "yellow" or "white", and although I do like a nice Bartlett or Bosc, I am darn sure there are more than 3 varieties of pear in the world.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:05 AM on May 8, 2017 [6 favorites]


I fully expect, when I bite into my first Cosmic Crisp apple, an experience not unlike that of Bilquis's supplicant on last night's American Gods.
posted by sutt at 8:06 AM on May 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


Though I am curious: if apples varieties are clones, how does this happen?

In the case of the Red Delicious, a number of mutations to the original variety have emerged on propagated trees, and then been repropagated as their own strain. Hence they are still derived from the original Red Delicious by cloning, but have been subject to mutation and selection over the many generations of that derivation.
posted by howfar at 8:09 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Washington apples, now? *spits seeds onto rich New York soil*

If it's not Cortland, get back in the truck.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:12 AM on May 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


Washington and/or New York apples, now?

/sips last season's Black Oxford cider
posted by givennamesurname at 8:32 AM on May 8, 2017


I grow Ribston Pippens at the allotment, which are quite nice. They have an almost tingly mouthfeel when you eat them. At the house we have 3 apple trees two bramley's seedlings and another unknown dessert apple variety that is still somewhat tart. I'm also in the process of espalliering two pear trees Duyonne du Comice and Beurre Hardy. The neighbour over the road has a conference pear and the next door one has a blush pear variety. There is a good resurgence in different apple and pear varieties over here and the orchard I ordered my trees from cartainly has quite a lot of varieties all grown in yorkshire soil, so they should thrive in the garden.

Me I make cider and perry as much as I can stand to press.
posted by koolkat at 8:47 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


Wasn't the Cosmic Crisp the apple that Loki and the Avengers were fighting over?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:51 AM on May 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'll keep an eye open for them, though currently Envy is my apple of choice. They're expensive but for me they hit the perfect balance of tart and sweet (I find Honeycrisp to be too sweet), and they're never mealy unlike certain other apples I could name.
posted by sotonohito at 9:05 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


TUM, WA has supplied the western US with apples for decades.

I make the same jokes about Vermont maple and Wisconsin dairy. It's a hold over from my days working in agricultural education.

New York onions are known for their bold flavor, due to our glacial muck soils!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:22 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm still grieving that Seedling Farms stopped doing their mail-order heirlooms, due, I think, to unpredictable crop levels (which does indirectly make the case for the big commercial apple, I guess...). A box full of crazytimes!
posted by praemunire at 9:26 AM on May 8, 2017


I remember Red Delicious apples from childhood (1960s) as flavorless, and Golden Delicious as having a mild but unpleasant flavor.

However, once I had apples described as "old-fashioned Delicious" and they were in fact excellent. They also had red and green stripes and were oddly assymetrical-- I don't remember the details, but they were slanted relative to their cores.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 9:37 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


did someone say Washington Apples?
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:07 AM on May 8, 2017


More apple varieties is a good thing, though I will be sad if this means that it will cut into the heavy production of Cripps Pink that has made them wonderfully cheap. Even if they aren't great keepers. Because those are the best of the supermarket apples.

I don't like Honeycrisp. I guess I just can't taste what everyone else does in them. I'd rather have a Gala, and they're way cheaper.

The best part about living in WA is that we do get so many varieties. Lots of heirlooms, and others that are not ideal for large scale production. Our local co-op gets some really interesting apples every year.
posted by monopas at 10:10 AM on May 8, 2017


On the other hand, corporate ownership of a given variety, forever? WTF. Should a private citizen snip a bud off of one of these trees and graft it onto one of his or her own crab apple trees, I'd not feel the slightest bit of concern for the grower. (Commercial apple piracy? Bad. Personal borrowing of a cultivar, for your own home? Civil disobedience for the good of humankind.)

I heard a radio piece on this once and the thing that that is actually owned is the name and the logo. You're probably fine to grow however many SweeTango apples you want if you can steal a branch, but you can't call them SweeTango which is really the key thing if you're a commercial grower.

Is it a good pie apple? Does it keep well?

It's the tyranny of the majority for commercial apple growers - they grow apples to be eaten fresh. I used to be able to buy Norther Spys at small corner fruit stores in Toronto but you'd never see them in grocery stores and they were very seasonal. But for better or worse the vast majority of the market doesn't really care about those two attributes and so grocery store apples typically keep OK and aere not great pie apples. Although IMO honeycrisps are great in anything, I seem to recall they bake up OK.

(and if I never see a Macintosh apple again it will be too soon)
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 AM on May 8, 2017


My wife made an apple crisp last fall with Honeycrisps - it was to die for.

We just got a price list from our small rural nursery. I can get a pair of Honeycrisps for a ridiculous price and I'm gonna do it.
posted by Ber at 10:57 AM on May 8, 2017


I'd call them SqueeTango because breaking the t off sweet gets on my nerves.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2017


Just dropping in to recommend Cripps Pink (Pink Lady) because they are delightful. Honeycrisps are too sweet for me, generally.

I will definitely look forward to trying out this new apple should any make their way intact to Texas.
posted by emjaybee at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Anyone else tried the Jazz apple? (Mentioned briefly in this article.) I've had some large Jazz apples that were kind of mushy and flavorless, but when the small, really hard versions show up in stores, they're great -- almost too sweet for me to handle, actually.

I'll be keeping an eye out for the Cosmic Crisp!
posted by mylittlepoppet at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


I remember taking a bite of one that seemed like the perfect Goldilocks apple, not too tart or too sweet, not too big or too small. It was a great apple, and my dad asked why it wasn't on the market. His friend told us to look down - the spot where we had bit had already turned almost completely brown.

and yet we eat bananas.
posted by srboisvert at 11:44 AM on May 8, 2017


Now we just need a Hecatonchires cyborg for harvesting all these apples.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:08 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah, because monocultures are the BEST!

Agricultural thread bingo.
posted by maryr at 12:13 PM on May 8, 2017 [8 favorites]


I recommend trying any russet varieties you can get hold of.

My partner and I have tried every apple variety we've seen for sale (50+ at this point) and we agree that none has been as good as the Ashmead's Kernel we get from a local farmer's market and our Co-op -- or the rarely encountered Cox's Orange Pippin either, for that matter.
posted by jamjam at 12:58 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


The poor russet. I love golden russets, as a child I remember some family friends always had a large number of them in storage in winter. They store well and were always good to eat. I can hardly find them any more though. Consumers don't want "ugly" apples so there are very few local cultivators anymore.
posted by papercrane at 1:21 PM on May 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


We had quite a few Sheep's Nose trees in our little orchard. It's a New England heirloom with a sort of longish, darkish fruit. It's usually used as a cooking Apple, but we generally through hours in the cider golden and red delicious. Whatever didn't go in the cider went in the big batch of applesauce-for-the-freezer, and the skins gave it a lovely color. I remember the first time I saw store bought apple sauce, I didn't know what it was because it was so thin and yellow.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:22 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Grew up with a garden that had various old apple and pear trees, including something a bit like a Cox but not quite, and a (exact variety unknown) russet. There was also a huge cooking apple tree, which produced enormous green oblate fruit in numbers - there are only so many jars of chutney one family can make. There was one tree which was quite small and produced bright yellow, utterly inedible crabapples, and I have no idea what use was made of it - it was in a little patch of its own, with gooseberry, red- and blackcurrant bushes and the remains of a low box hedge around it, so it could have been partially ornamental, but who knows.

They were all past their best (heaven only knows how much the cooker churned out in its prime) and given the history of the place I reckon they were probably planted in the early-mid 19th century, as various other features in the garden were clearly relics of Victorian formal layout, if not Georgian. Perhaps some were more recent, but they all certainly looked ancient. The cooker was probably a Devonshire Buckland, which came on the scene in 1803 from a location not far from the garden, so that all fits.

But the only way you can beat a russet is with another russet that you reached up to and picked while lying in a hammock strung between the russet apple tree and the pear tree next to it. The pear tree was hopeless, just oroducing a handful of pears a year, but at least that meant the wasps stayed over the other side of the orchard. Mostly.

I checked on Google Maps a couple of years ago, and wished I hadn't - the orchard part of the garden has been sold off and is now a small house. On the other hand, a nearby wooded hillside that was once part of the same lands, and which I know from childhood exploration contained another ghost garden, remains untouched.
posted by Devonian at 1:38 PM on May 8, 2017 [8 favorites]


Consumers don't want "ugly" apples so there are very few local cultivators anymore.

You're right, but the more fools we consumers, then; I seem to recall that the compounds which give apples their distinct flavors are synthesized in the skin, so it makes sense to me that the rougher, thicker-skinned russets would have such super-charged flavors.

Russets were Anne of Green Gables' favorites, though -- maybe an enterprising marketer could rename one of the more available russet varieties the Anne Shirley (isn't there a new AGG series on the way?) and grab a bit more of a share.
posted by jamjam at 1:52 PM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


We had quite a few Sheep's Nose trees in our little orchard.

OK, now I want to just start making up apple cultivars.
  • Nob's Red
  • Turkey Gobble
  • Golden Oak
  • Saucers' Delight
  • Granite
  • Garnet Russet
  • Quince's Curse
  • Agricola Agricolae
  • Kitchen Helper
  • Lunchbox Disappointment
  • Harold
  • Unsung Hero
  • Just Apple (TM)
posted by maryr at 2:51 PM on May 8, 2017 [9 favorites]


I'm a huge Envy fan, too. I'm always curious about a new variety.
And I do remember catching some great Red Delicious in the early to mid 60s - you had to find the darkest red ones, with a bit of pink tinge that that came from the skin.
posted by Sweet Dee Kat at 5:38 PM on May 8, 2017


We have an Early Transparent in our garden that is close to 100 years old. It is sick (andthracnose) and gnarly, but man does that thing produce! They are NOT for eating, they are for cooking, and in the old days for yeast (as sourdough starter). They have almost no juice, but make the best apple butter/sauce.
"Dessert" apples (those we eat) were commonly grown on crabapple stock because of root issues with many of the varieties of eating apples. Rootstock grafting is also a handy way to determine size (dwarf, semi-dwarf, etc.).
Lots of fruit trees are grown on root grafts, and there's quite an industry in developing new/better rootstocks.
posted by dbmcd at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Devonian: " There was one tree which was quite small and produced bright yellow, utterly inedible crabapples, and I have no idea what use was made of it "

Planted as a pollinator.
posted by Mitheral at 7:09 PM on May 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


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