There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch
October 20, 2017 1:33 AM   Subscribe

Cosmic Crisp is the next thing in apples -- 12 million cloned offsets to be planted, their apples in stores maybe in 2019. Higher prices for sweeter crisper fruit.

Orchards in the US NE now put in irrigation when they replant; summers are dryer, water-tables lower, and we replant more often. That's a cost of fashion in apples; new trees have shallower roots.

We used to grow more kinds; hundreds in the US, thousands across the world. A few survive in yards and hedgerows; there are detectives finding them. There's even an archive-orchard managed by the USDA. (You can order grafts!)

And all these seem to come from five wild species, none tasty by modern standards, despite apples not fertilizing themselves well or replicating themselves closely by sexual propagation.
posted by clew (113 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
How crisp does an apple need to be?
posted by fairmettle at 1:53 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


I didn't try a honey crisp until several years after the initial craze, and it didn't seem that great. Not mind-blowing, anyway. Was there a noticeable drop-off in quality after the introduction?
posted by ryanrs at 2:09 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


i can't stand honeycrisp anymore, they're so cloyingly sweet

can i just have black twig please
posted by poffin boffin at 2:13 AM on October 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


anyway let's all have a big fight about which apples are best, aka my favourite annual thread
posted by poffin boffin at 2:14 AM on October 20, 2017 [89 favorites]


Somebody, somewhere, is working to design a pumpkin spice apple. You know this, right?
posted by ardgedee at 3:12 AM on October 20, 2017 [16 favorites]


Granny Smith forever!!
posted by Pendragon at 3:25 AM on October 20, 2017 [21 favorites]


I am glad to see people coming to see Red delicious for its true nature, that is, Mealy Garbage fruit.
posted by Karaage at 3:27 AM on October 20, 2017 [57 favorites]


Winesap season is upon us...
posted by jim in austin at 3:30 AM on October 20, 2017 [5 favorites]


anyway let's all have a big fight about which apples are best, aka my favourite annual thread

fuji or gtfo
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:34 AM on October 20, 2017 [10 favorites]


These apples put out for a taste test are Honeycrisp (from left), Jazz, Gala, Red Delicious and Cosmic Crisp.

Were they afraid to include Ambrosia in the lineup?
posted by tenderly at 3:36 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


> "anyway let's all have a big fight about which apples are best"

Well, I know that there are advocates of the Chestnut Crab or the Pitmaston Pineapple. Some will go to extreme lengths to seek out D'Arcy Spice or the Granite Beauty. There are traditionalists who will have nothing but an Åkerö, Court Pendu Plat, Annurca, Golden Spire, Antonovka, Rhode Island Greening, or Green Cheese. But I will put in a vote for the Knobbed Russet.

because I want to watch you eat the hideous apple

EAT IT
posted by kyrademon at 3:39 AM on October 20, 2017 [17 favorites]


Fuck crisp. Give me Cox's pippins.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:44 AM on October 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


The last honeycrisp I tried was a disappointment. It was sweet and crisp, but not very flavorful. I suspect that part of the problem is that the ones that get discounted to the point where I will consider buying them are just not very good apples.

I also remember eating some that were really good, so I think ryanrs may also have a point. I read somewhere that one of the problems with apples is that the popular varieties spread to geographical areas and climates that are not as well suited for them as the areas where they were developed. I know I have never been as pleased with Washington gala apples as I was with the ones imported from New Zealand.

One of my favorite apples for a while was Stayman. I bought them in several consecutive years from '82 to '88 at one Safeway store in College Park, MD. I seem to remember them being an early harvest apple. They were large and sweet and flavorful and I have never gotten any good ones since then, even in other stores in the same area.

My problem with granny smith is that I can't tell by looking at them if they are ripe, and the few that I have tried have not been ripe. Apparently the temptation to pick and ship too early is irresistible in the case of a variety that is green when it is ripe.
posted by Bruce H. at 3:45 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Man, the Stayman Winesaps came in at Ridgetop last week (usually 2nd week in October every year, sometimes a week earlier and sometimes a week later) and I got a bushel. Honeycrisp is a lot too sweet for me and kind of one-note. Staymans are not so sweet and wonderfully crunchy and not-so-one-note in flavor. They are The Best Apple and they are particularly delightful this year.

If you don't live in Arizona or California, my local orchard will ship some to you for what seems like a hideous amount of money but is not, once you taste the apples, all that much. You do have to go for the "personal choice" or whatever gift box because they are not pretty and don't shine up well and are not the typical gift box offering as per the website. They're not for looking at. They are for eating. You have about two more weeks for apple perfection this year, best get on it.
posted by which_chick at 3:47 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


CORTLAND, MY DROOGS
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:48 AM on October 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


Calville Blanc D'Hiver. I'll fight you.

(You can make an amazing single-variety hard cider with it AND applesauce from the leftover pulp. Which I plan to be doing next week after my annual upstate NY "who's got the Calvilles" hunt).

They're the original apple used for Tarte Tatin as well.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:50 AM on October 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


I really, really like Red Mcintosh but can't seem to find it in the UK any more, does anyone know why?
posted by sarahdal at 3:51 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Karaage: I am glad to see people coming to see Red delicious for its true nature, that is, Mealy Garbage fruit.

I was listening to a documentary about chicken breasts recently, and the selective breeding that has driven them to be mealy, flavourless lumps, and I thought: Chicken breasts have become the Red Delicious of meat.
posted by clawsoon at 4:08 AM on October 20, 2017 [17 favorites]


My wife and I are so utterly sick of these cloyingly sweet, disgusting dessert apples, and the havoc that generations of inbreeding wreak on the species' genome, and how that requires the rampant use of pesticides that causes apple orchards to be an environmental hazard, that we've collected a the better part of a thousand wild apple and pear seeds from old, overgrown farms and will be planting them all in a corner of our property next year. (We've been working on reforesting it anyway, so might as well contribute to genetic diversity while we're at it.)

What's fun about apples and pears is that they're so utterly heterozygous that their children are almost completely different in quality than the parents. (That is, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" doesn't apply to apples, which I find cute.) As a result, traditionally, apples weren't generally eaten out of hand: any given apple was too tart or too hard or too astringent to be much good. Instead, apples mean booze: they were all blended together into cider, which balanced out all the random variations (and kept longer, anyway). Dessert apples are a relatively recent phenomenon. (And they really took off after prohibition: orchards needed to survive somehow.)

We live pretty close to the Geneva, NY germplasm mentioned in the parent post, and collected some seeds from fruit we liked there, too. Apples there are weird: all different shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and textures. They have apples that look and taste like potatoes. We found a neat little crabapple that tasted exactly like a lemon (though it's texture left much to be desired). We found unnamed cultivars that put any commercial varieties we've tasted to shame. They even have rows and rows of truly wild apples, collected from their native home (near Almaty, in Kazakhstan): the germplasm is trying to preserve the genome as all the ancient forests are being torn up to make more room for urban sprawl.

So I guess we're trying to do our part to protect these lovely trees, since it really does seem that we humans are abusing them into extinction.
posted by ragtag at 4:11 AM on October 20, 2017 [37 favorites]


The Crimson Crisp is a great apple. Red as you could want, tart as a Granny Smith, good flavor.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 4:14 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Gravenstein, but it will never be a high volume fancy produce item, smaller often misshapen with climate limits but the best pie apple. Unique flavor, not too tart not too sweet.
posted by sammyo at 4:24 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


And if you happen to run onto a Delicious (either golden or red) that's small and not a perfect shape, try one, it's a pretty good variety if it isn't forced into oversized glossy. (was using 'forced' somewhat as a technical term but I'm not actually sure if trees can be practically forced by fertilizer or irrigation)
posted by sammyo at 4:30 AM on October 20, 2017


Green Cheese

Now you're just fucking with--

Green Cheese


...huh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:37 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


Commercial apples are mostly junk. They're bred for storage first, appearance second, and taste third.

If you have a few square yards of open space in your garden/yard, and a suitable climate, you can plant an apple tree. Something grafted to stay reasonably small won't take up much space. I have a tree that's about 6 feet in diameter and no taller that that, and we must have had two or three hundred apples from it this month - enough that the tree has almost uprooted itself (we're going to have to sort that out once the last of the fruit is off). The apples are big, crisp, juicy, sharp and taste like apples are supposed to taste, not like sugar-water. They're so much better than anything I've ever bought. I've forgotten the variety - a Cox crossed with something else; hopefully I have it written down somewhere.

My point, though, is that there are literally hundreds of better apple varieties - single varieties and crosses - available to grow at home. You won't get a big harvest every single year - more like 1 or 2 in 3 - and they're obviously very seasonal (get freezing/canning!). They may not be as pretty, and they may not keep over the winter, but you'll be glad you planted one.
posted by pipeski at 4:37 AM on October 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


A new season Cox's Orange Pippin is by far and away the best apple.

Check out Brogdale
posted by bifurcated at 4:44 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Fuji Boma Ye
posted by DigDoug at 4:58 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was sure there was a similar previously this May, and just 9 years ago people were raving about the Honeycrisp in this thread, but my vote stays with Rubinola, a small, yellowish-fleshed variety unpoisoned by mass production methods.

I can't stand the supermarket mainstays anymore and get my apples from farms if possible.
posted by Laotic at 5:01 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Pacific Rose or gtfo
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:06 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


anyway let's all have a big fight about which apples are best, aka my favourite annual thread

Hi I don't like any apples.
Representation matters.
posted by phunniemee at 5:07 AM on October 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


the honeycrisps I've seen in recent years have been picked too soon...even the ones at the farmers' market!
posted by brujita at 5:09 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


I didn't try a honey crisp until several years after the initial craze, and it didn't seem that great.

Honeycrisps are known for being hit-or-miss, apple-to-apple; 'varies in quality' is usually how it's phrased. They're a pain to grow, which can affect flavour and texture. So you may have just got a bad apple (as it were).
posted by halation at 5:10 AM on October 20, 2017


I have a four year old orchard of heirloom trees that have not yet produced and a five pound bag of local tiny, tart golden delicious apples I've been working my way through this week. All hail the apple.
posted by annathea at 5:13 AM on October 20, 2017


Cloned fruit? Isn't that how we got where we are today with bananas?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:18 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's all lobos, cortlands, spartan and Macintosh where I shop. There will be a bin of grannies, galas and red delicious of dubious age though.

I may simply live in poor apple growing company.
posted by Phalene at 5:24 AM on October 20, 2017


Anyway I miss decent peaches
posted by penduluum at 5:34 AM on October 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


Move production indoors under controlled environments and LED lighting.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:37 AM on October 20, 2017


A few survive in yards and hedgerows; there are detectives finding them. There's even an archive-orchard managed by the USDA. (You can order grafts!)

My family owns land here in Maine that has been in the family for several generations, including four heritage apple trees that now come with their own preservation deed, so when the land eventually is sold the new owners understand that they cannot simply rip up the trees.

You may be interested in the work that Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (MOFGA) is doing to preserve Maine heritage breeds, including growing (and in some cases transplanting) trees from around the state to MOFGAs own land so they can continue to propagate the trees. Lots of details, including breed descriptions, here.
posted by anastasiav at 5:55 AM on October 20, 2017 [10 favorites]


Cloned fruit? Isn't that how we got where we are today with bananas?


No, you’re thinking of the Bananapple.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:03 AM on October 20, 2017


I'm a Jonagold man, myself
posted by timdiggerm at 6:05 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


No love for the Empire apple ? I also really enjoy the green Ginger Gold, but they have a nasty habit of going bad (mush/mealy) quickly..
posted by k5.user at 6:06 AM on October 20, 2017


I love being in a town with a major university pomology department/ag research station, and the host of orchards that have grown up around it. What I think is the best apple depends on what the season is, and what I'm doing with it.

That said, I particularly like:
Eating: Cox's Orange Pippin, Queen Cox, Ellison's Orange, Winesap, Suncrisp
Baking: Calville Blanc Hiver, Bramley's Seedling, Hudson's Golden Gem
posted by zamboni at 6:15 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


All domestic apple varieties are clones.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:21 AM on October 20, 2017


Weirdly, although we have lots of orchards around here, I seldom see anything except Galas, Honeycrisp, Haralson, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Red Delicious, Golden and Granny Smiths.

IIRC, the issue with Honeycrisps is that they need particular soil and handling and as more farmers have started growing them, more and more people don't really follow the recommended placement and process. The newer UMN variety, the SweeTango, is sold under more restrictive conditions in order to promote consistency.

"SweeTango" is a terrible name. I do like the apples, though.

Here's the thing: it is not cool to admit that you like sweet, crisp apples, just as it is not cool to like candy corn or any other low brow/mass thing. But I do like sweet, crisp apples! I like juicy apples with large cells! I don't mind tart apples, but to me those are slicing apples more than eat-out-of-hand apples.

The co-op used, very occasionally, to get Arkansas Black apples, and those are my absolute favorite. We haven't had any in a few years, though.
posted by Frowner at 6:23 AM on October 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


my favorite apple are the ones that get marked 20% off at the farmer's market because there's probably one softish apple in the bag and you gotta figure it out the second you get home or else it's absolutely over
posted by runt at 6:26 AM on October 20, 2017 [5 favorites]


I kinda feel like the only way to really enjoy a honeycrisp is to get them from Metropolitan Market in Tacoma or Seattle the week they are the picked. They are like 5 bucks a pound for this 2-3 week period but holy shit it's great.

I'm pan-app-sual, I like em all.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:27 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


All domestic apple varieties are clones.

Yup. My understanding is that the apple monoculture problem isn't necessarily the cloned varieties, but over-reliance on the M9 dwarfing rootstock that the scions are often grafted to. We need a diversity of both apple varieties, and the rootstocks that they grow on.
posted by zamboni at 6:30 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


While we're on the topic of the apple's genome, let's have some fun with estimation!
  1. An apple's entire genome fits in an apple seed (of course).
  2. An apple has approximately 742.3 million base pairs.
  3. DNA has a Shannon entropy of approximately 1 bit per base pair.
  4. English has a Shannon entropy of approximately 1.3 bits per symbol.
  5. There are approximately 0.5 million symbols in an average English book.
  6. The New York Public Library contains approximately 2.5 million books.
  7. The information contained in an apple seed is approximately equivalent to 1142 books. The information contained in 2,200 seeds is approximately equivalent to an entire library! ♥
(I guess why Cosmic Crisp saddens me is that all those 12 million trees, all together, represent a mere few shelves of books, when they could represent a whole 5,500 libraries.)
posted by ragtag at 6:32 AM on October 20, 2017 [11 favorites]


All domestic apple varieties are clones.

This is also true of grapes, both table and wine varieties, though there are more varied grape rootstocks.

Ancient apple and grape varieties are wonderful, but they do tend to need more chemical assistance, more so for disease management than pests. The diseases have had hundreds of years to get better at infecting the plants, whereas the plants have been, essentially, frozen in time.

There's some very promising CRISPR research focused on bringing newer disease resistance genes to heirloom fruit varieties. It's quite exciting.
posted by jedicus at 6:36 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


There's some very promising CRISPR research focused on bringing newer disease resistance genes to heirloom fruit varieties. It's quite exciting.

Oh?! Link please?!
posted by furnace.heart at 6:40 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Will no one stand up for the Gala?
posted by bwvol at 6:44 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


I like Gala. But, I don't like the really big ones at the grocery store. I feel like they are more prone to being mealy or just... not being crisp, and their skin is thicker. I feel like the smaller ones are more reliably crisp without being hard, as well as having thinner skin and generally speaking being more convenient to hold and eat.
posted by inconstant at 6:51 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Er, that was confusing of me. That is to say, I get all of my apples from the grocery store; it isn't that small Gala apples are appearing by magic on my doorstep or falling off a personally planted tree or something. I don't know why I specified that.
posted by inconstant at 6:52 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Something I should mention is that Cosmic Crisp is an example of a proprietary variety, with royalty fees on planting and sales. Any new apple with a fancy name and a marketing campaign is a proprietary variety, trying to be the next Honeycrisp. Honeycrisp came out of UMN - their main patent has since expired, but they have new ones like SweeTango and Zestar. Cornell has SnapDragon and RubyFrost. WSU has Sunrise Magic and Cosmic Crisp.
WSU will get a royalty of 4.75 percent of every box that sells for more than $20. On a $500 million crop, 4.75 percent is $23.7 million. There’s also a $1 royalty on every tree sold for planting. Trees generally cost $9, including the royalty. On 10 million trees sold, the royalty is $10 million.
posted by zamboni at 6:53 AM on October 20, 2017 [8 favorites]


Oh?! Link please?!

Malnoy et al. DNA-Free Genetically Edited Grapevine and Apple Protoplast Using CRISPR/Cas9 Ribonucleoproteins (2016) (an open access article).

They used CRISPR to deliver powdery mildew resistance genes to Chardonnay and fire blight resistance to Golden Delicious. This was only an in vitro proof of concept; they hadn't yet gone as far as growing whole plants and testing the resistance yet, but I suspect multiple research teams are working on that right now.

The same approach may save the Cavendish banana from being wiped out by Panama disease.

Also, shout-out to the humble crab apple for making cider. A moderate proportion of crab apples from a few different wild-type trees can add a great depth of flavor to a cider.
posted by jedicus at 6:55 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


Gravenstein, obvs.
posted by moonmilk at 6:56 AM on October 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yeah, yeah, Washington...the real action is in Minnesota and Wisconsin. University of Minnesota bypassed their Honeycrisp years ago with new varieties they are pushing - Zestar and SweeTango being the two they are pushing the hardest. I'm not sure they are better or worse than Honeycrisp. It's always fun to go out the University and taste the new varieties identified only by number.

All over Minnesota and Wisconsin are these little orchards, and the apples come right off the trees and into your awaiting tummy. They put store-bought apples to absolute shame.

But here's the deal. There is one money apple, and good luck finding it. The name?

Kickapoo Spice

As one grower put it, these trees are finicky, prone to damage, and just not grown in quantity. They come originally from Wisconsin, I believe, and not many orchards planted them. When they come in, they are in for about 2 weeks, and it is an early harvest. They are bought out immediately by those that will check daily to see if they are in.
posted by Muddler at 7:04 AM on October 20, 2017 [5 favorites]


Oh, we’re moving on to the honeycrisp backlash?

Go on ahead. I’ll catch up at Stayman.
posted by notyou at 7:06 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also, shout-out to the humble crab apple for making cider. A moderate proportion of crab apples from a few different wild-type trees can add a great depth of flavor to a cider.

Crab apples and other bittersharps are awesome. You won't see them in your grocer, but there are traditional cider apple categories called bittersweet (high tannin, low acid) and bittersharps (high tannin, high acid) that add that depth of flavor. It was apparently traditional in cider orchards to plant bittersharps around the perimeter of the orchard next to the road, and other apple varieties behind them. An apple scrumper coming to steal apples would encounter the bittersharps first, eat one, and leave with an empty basket and a puckered mouth.
posted by zamboni at 7:07 AM on October 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


I've grown fond of the Red Prince largely because it tastes good in the frigid winter when all I see is the sad remnants of a forgotten summer at the market and the well travelled apples from sunnier climes in the grocery store.

My favorite old time varietal, the Snow Apple, is growing increasingly hard to find. The last couple years I've had sad Russets which have turned me off them (tragic as they were my go to apple for many years).
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:09 AM on October 20, 2017


Put me down for Pink Lady. They have a nice crisp crunch and are more tart and complex than a honeycrisp.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 7:09 AM on October 20, 2017 [8 favorites]


It's always fun to go out the University and taste the new varieties identified only by number.

My road trip planning demands to know what is the best time of year for that trip.

Signed, a person who grew up near an orchard in CT.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:13 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's depressing how few people get (or care) that there's no way that food bred to look good will ever be as delicious as food bred only for taste.
posted by straight at 7:15 AM on October 20, 2017


Envy. Tasty and it doesn't brown. The season is disappointingly short though.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:16 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


How crisp does an apple need to be?

Ever had a carrot fresh from the ground? Yeah, ideally something like that.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 7:19 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


McIntosh or nothing.
Except when baking.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:21 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


McIntosh.

I feel like honeycrisps for for people that don't like apples.
posted by touchstone033 at 7:21 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Have we been using visual perfection of food to avoid disease and spoilage for si long that it is instinctual?
posted by straight at 7:21 AM on October 20, 2017


Put me down for Pink Lady. They have a nice crisp crunch and are more tart and complex than a honeycrisp.

Otherwise known as Cripps pink! So good. A little bit sour/tangy.
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


My Jewel. It's a bit like Winter Banana but more firm and tart. They have an ethereal banana note on top of the apple taste. There's a farm that grows a few of them commercially.
posted by jet_silver at 7:30 AM on October 20, 2017


Macouns! I miss them, never found them outside the northeast.
posted by suelac at 8:05 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm glad we can all agree that red delicious is garbage and should have the delicious part of its name revoked.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:06 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm glad we can all agree that red delicious is garbage and should have the delicious part of its name revoked.

You can't just have an apple called "red." It would cause complete chaos.
posted by holborne at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


They even have rows and rows of truly wild apples, collected from their native home (near Almaty, in Kazakhstan).

I had the fortune of living in Almaty while serving in the Peace Corps a decade ago - my host family lived in a little village outside of Almaty and had a small grove of these wild apples - little crab apples that I had never see before in the states - maybe worth two, three crispy bites at most, some with the most mouth puckering sourness and others that almost smelled berry like. My host mother was fruit vendor in the city and regularly grew strawberries and all sorts of other fruits to sell. I still have fond memories of sitting in the grove in lazy fall evenings with my 12 year old host niece, picking the apples and being actively encouraged to huck the cores through the fields and compost piles to return it to the earth.

Fun fact - the original name in Kazakh for "Almaty" was "alma-ata, " literally translated as "apple father" and girls are regularly named Alma upon birth.
posted by Karaage at 8:59 AM on October 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


Envy.

Honey Crips don't fit in my apple slicer.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:48 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh wow, seeing that shot with the backhoe taking out mature apricot trees, in bloom, made me cringe. I spent years photographing in Utah orchards, for the Utah's Own project, and Local Grown. Cringe. I fell in love with the Cameo apple when it came out, it is crisp, sweet, tart, good for baking, and eating, and good on a platter with cheeses. I settled for Fuji, which is a great apple. Quinces are on right now, I sure love those baked into things, or quince butter, or quince marmalade.
posted by Oyéah at 10:02 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


I've been eating Zestars this year because some farmer in my CSA collective planted them. They're pretty good.
posted by potrzebie at 10:13 AM on October 20, 2017


No love for Fireside? Good for eating, really good for apple crisp, keeps pretty well. Sadly, the tree in our yard only produced one apple this year due to a severe hailstorm early in the season.
posted by superna at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2017


I used to love Fujis, particularly because they are so versatile, good as both an eating apple and for cooking. However, the ones I have gotten lately in California seem to be suffering Red Deliciousization, with the flavor disappearing. Same for Galas, which also used to be a good easily available apple but now often are flavorless. Pink Ladies are still good, and I've liked the Pacific Rose I've had recently.
posted by tavella at 10:18 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


The best baking apple = Northern Spy.

Is it too much of a derail to insert here a condemnation of the heinous "cotton candy" grapes? So wrong.
posted by Preserver at 10:46 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


I miss pippins. They used to be available locally (sf bay area), or at least, available often enough that I developed a liking for them; I can't find them anywhere now. I like granny smiths too, but I miss pippins.

And I really wish I had a yard that could have fruit trees. (I live in a warehouse apartment. There are 2' square patches of dirt between apartments, and you can't grow anything edible in them; they've got inner-city industrial-zone toxic-waste dirt.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2017


It's always fun to go out the University and taste the new varieties identified only by number.

My road trip planning demands to know what is the best time of year for that trip.


cobaltnine,

Let's start with the absolute treasure that is the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. If you haven't been there, go. You can spend days wandering the gardens and the massive grounds. They have events there from time to time that include apple tasting.

However, just past the main entrance for the arboretum is the AppleHouse. In the link they have their hotline number which you can call to hear what is in season right now, and they have estimates for timing on their downloadable rack card.

When to visit? The short answer is RIGHT NOW. This is the tail end of the apple season, but as a bonus, we are in peak fall color in the twin cities area, and we are having unseasonably warm weather. Hopefully the color lasts through the weekend.
posted by Muddler at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


A few years ago, I took out a trio of white spruce out of my inner-city backyard. I mostly grow flowers, I don't have much space, and very little will grow within ten feet of a spruce, due to shading and the shallow, thirsty roots. The spruce had to go (and I'm looking at you, Manitoba Maple).

I have Norman roots, and my uncles still make (or have made) Calvados. So, dreaming of a day maybe ten years hence where I might take up the 'family tradition', I put in two apple trees. Again, because of the lack of space, I mostly hunted for an apple that had a slender, columnar habit and hardy to zone 3. This where the University of Minnesota and the University of Saskatchewan's programs -- together with other prairie ag research centers like Morden -- have really been huge. Anyways, I planted two Zestar trees -- I had never tasted a Zestar, but the tree has less spread.

Two years later, I'm wondering why these trees have yet to produce. It was a Metafilter post on bananas that finally got me to realize that these trees were clones, and thus incapable of fertilizing each other! Usually this isn't a problem, as there are generally lots of ornamental crabs around, but apparently not near (enough to) my yard.

So this year, I put in a third tree. At this point my small and narrow yard doesn't have a lot of space and light, so I hunted for the smallest prairie hardy tree I could find. Turns out this was a Honeycrisp. Well, the trees all got along just fine, and despite how young and small the trees are, the harvest was, by my lights, prodigious. What's more is that I expected that without pesticides and fertilizers and so on, I'd be juicing a small amount of bruised and half eaten fruit. Instead, the fruit is grocery store large and 'perfect' and, having inadvertently planted what this thread has now shown me to be deeply uncool varieties, incredibly crisp, juicy and sweet. (Zestar apparently was developed to a similar taste and texture profile as Honeycrisp -- I can barely tell them apart, honestly)

So hate on Honeycrisp all you want, I'm totally thrilled at what grew out my back door. More, the neighbours were all astounded themselves, and got motivated. Next spring a half dozen or so trees are going in on our street (more with every apple I bring over to a neighbour). We've already started talking about pitching in on a cider press, and I'll have all winter to plan which varieties to add to the mix of what I'm dreaming of as the future Ninth Street Orchard and Cidery.

The calva will come later....
posted by bumpkin at 11:10 AM on October 20, 2017 [13 favorites]


Every time the Apple Thread comes up I try to summon the courage to post about how good Red Delicious CAN be. I guess today is the day.

I won't make any kind of claim that Red Delicious is the Best Apple Ever. But if you grew up in Washington and had the opportunity to have them directly off the tree before they had the chance to turn to Satan's Mush, then you would know there is a kind of powdery tanic crispness that is unique to that apple at its peak. Describing them as powdery probably isn't making them more appealing, but I can't think of a better description. You can actually see it as a whitish bloom on the fruit itself if it hasn't been handled too much.

Anyway, I doubt I'll convince anyone who only knows the giant shiny mush balls that get shipped around the world (or used to, I don't think they are planted much anymore), but the super-crisp, tanic, powdery, almost purple fresh Red Delicious is still in my top five favorite eating apples.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2017 [5 favorites]


What do people think about Envy apples? The taste (to me) is good, but something about them seems overly produced, they're like too perfect and every bite is exactly the same.
posted by cell divide at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2017


Ever had a carrot fresh from the ground?

but how do you type with your lil bunny paws
posted by poffin boffin at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


Envy is the Merchant-Ivory production of apples.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:30 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


No, Mei's lost sandal, I can remember when I was a kid that even supermarket Red Delicious could occasionally be excellent. It's more the treatment of the apples from tree to home that destroys them rather than it being a bad apple.
posted by tavella at 11:31 AM on October 20, 2017


I think I brought it up last time, but both Golden and Red came by their moniker fairly in their original state. It's not coincidental that they are both (especially Golden Delicious) parents to some of the most popular modern apples. Fuji and Cameo for Red Delicious, Gala, Pink Lady, and many more for Golden Delicious.
posted by tavella at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2017


I remember when Braeburn got really popular in the late 90's. They were really good, even from the store. now they aren't much better than Red Delicious. I think it has to do with longer storage times before ending up in the store.

If you ever get a chance to eat a Hawkeye, do so. They are the progenitor of the Red Delicious, and actually have flavor.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Ginger Gold and Mutsu/Crispin are perfect bookends of the picking season. I just finished a Crispin the size of a duckpin bowling ball.
posted by steveminutillo at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2017


It's the most successful result so far of an apple breeding effort that Bruce Barritt began at Washington State University more than 20 years ago.

20 years? That's adorable.
posted by ckape at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Green Cheese?

I was at a house Wednesday evening where the family had just gotten their apple CSA delivered from a place called Out on a Limb, and asked us to rate the five varieties. One of them – looks like it’s one of the Maine heritage breeds anastasiav mentions above, is called Canadian Strawberry.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2017


One of my grade school readers had a story about an Apple family who named all their kids after varieties: Jonathan, Delicious (called Delia) MacIntosh...then the 2nd girl is born. The mother vetoes Baldwin and they finally settle on Ann.

Does anyone remember who wrote it?
posted by brujita at 12:04 PM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


I love McIntosh, but I haven't seen them at all this season at Austin gro stos.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2017


I got this amazing box of gnarled and bumpy and weird-colored heirlooms from Zingerman's one year, but I guess that orchard doesn't ship out of state anymore. Now I get weird non-sprayed unidentified ones from a farm that calls itself "ornery" instead of "organic," and Macouns for the three weeks of the year they are the best apple in the world.
posted by praemunire at 12:59 PM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


> No, Mei's lost sandal

I'm kinda tired and read this as "Mei's lost sandal" being your vote for best apple.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:10 PM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


> "SweeTango" is a terrible name. I do like the apples, though

I buy them at Costco, where they show up with the Honey Crisps. Like, they don't have a sign, they're stacked with the Honey Crisps as if they're interchangeable.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2017


Have we been using visual perfection of food to avoid disease and spoilage for si long that it is instinctual?

Huh! Plausible! I wonder if it's testable.

There doesn't seem to be an uncanny valley for it, either.

I left off half the post, which was meant to be more about consumerism changing the ecological cost of food by seriously changing the production methods. Oops. Always up for everyone's praise of their favorite apple, though.
posted by clew at 2:40 PM on October 20, 2017


Count me in as another who has been disappointed by recent Honeycrisps. I still recall the first one I had, in 2012, and how it was a juicy lovely enormous flavor explosion. I even remember where I was at the time, and how the day was so humid it made my hair curl. That Honeycrisp was my madeleine; I still seek to recapture that initial startle of realization that apples could be more than just "tart" (Granny Smith) or "smooth" (Gala). Sigh, to be young and naive and full of hope that every Honeycrisp would be ever thus.
posted by basalganglia at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


Ashmead's Kernel, yo, though why have they been so crummy in NYC the past few years? I will eat the hell out of some russet apples, and am excited to try the knobby ones mentioned above.
posted by gusandrews at 5:34 PM on October 20, 2017


Gold Rush!!
posted by aws17576 at 5:36 PM on October 20, 2017


Hold up: have some of you never had a Macoun? I am so sorry. I will have one tomorrow and dedicate it to you. Come visit NE if necessary.
posted by theredpen at 6:24 PM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's all lobos, cortlands, spartan, and Empire where I shop - I live in good apple growing company.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:12 PM on October 20, 2017


American stores and their love of big sweet shiny apples, even the newer fancier ones.

I miss my beloved Cox's Orange Pippin (though even they are probably overproduced and lessened by it in the UK) but here, the small producers of Gravensteins are done for the year and if I can't find Black Oxfords from the ultra-
heirloom orchards, I'll make do with Arkansas Black. (And I have liked the Macouns and Staymen Winesaps this year.) The local orchards here are also finally experimenting with traditional tannic cider varieties -- at least, the ones that aren't run by strict religious folks who think hard cider is more sinful than dancing.
posted by holgate at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2017


Honeycrisp need to be from Minnesota. They were phasing out state-specific labeling for a lot of fruit when I left the produce biz in 2005-6. But.
California peaches and Washington Honeycrisp are gross. There are good reasons to want to know where your fruit comes from.
They are my favorite fruits, but I’ll only eat Honeycrisp from farmers’ markets because the store ones are trash now. Totes of Pink Ladies have been ok this year, but I am struggling through the last few mushy thick-skinned McIntosh in the fridge right now. Yuck.
posted by MsDaniB at 7:41 PM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


"We used to grow more kinds; hundreds in the US, thousands across the world. A few survive in yards and hedgerows; there are detectives finding them. "

In our backyard we grew an Arkansas Black (Arkansas, dating to about 1870, better after storing) and White Pearmain (England, prior to 1200, crisp and a bit biting when fresh -- probably better for cooking fresh -- mellows with storage, some pear notes after storing). It's super-fun to grow heirloom apples! You can pick two that bloom at the same time to pollinate each other, but also, in our part of the US there are so many ornamental crabapples that they provided a pretty good source of pollen for apple trees. In years where one of ours didn't bloom well, the crabapples usually still pollinated the other. If you're going to do backyard apples -- and two backyard trees is totally reasonable! -- I suggest you find some varieties that aren't often found in stores (russet apples are delicious but not very pretty, so they're not often grown commercially), and some that are particularly friendly to your local climate or even from your local area, and plant those. They're less prone to insect infestations than popular commercial varieties, and it's really interesting to get different types than are generally available.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:50 PM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


California peaches are delicious if you buy them at the orchard stand down the street.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:13 PM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


In Defense of Red Delicious.
The cultivar grown now --the mealy and short-life -- is not what was grown forty years ago. In Michigan, for example, site of my childhood, Red Delicious purchased road-side or in grocer were reliably hard, crisp, sweet, and inexplicably juicy. Children such as myself, at the end of its growing season, could carve faces from its meat when desiccated transformed into Hallowe'en (xmas, optional) ornamental heads of ogres and crones. It was a fine fruit.

I gave up on the pretenders in the late '80s and switched (exclusively) to Granny Smith (which for a time I combined with Red, raisins, and Bartlet pears in pies) which is what my child grew up eating mostly. But it too is evolving in varieties by country of origin and "conventional" or "organic" assortments to satisfy unseasonal demand and is unlikely to end well.
posted by marycatherine at 4:57 AM on October 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


My local orchard that sells at the farmer's market has Cosmic Crisp now. Tried one this morning. Delicious. Bought a 1/2 peck.
posted by escabeche at 8:26 AM on October 21, 2017


Farmer's market report: Black Diamond Farm doesn't have Winesaps yet, but will in the next week or so. I have five pounds of Bramley's Seedling and Hudson's Golden Gem for pie, and I'm eating my second Suncrisp.
posted by zamboni at 10:30 AM on October 21, 2017


I had an Empire the other day that was very nice. I don't know if they always are, or if it's because it's the new crop.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


My problem with granny smith ...

I saw granny smith apples at a local store this morning that were shading to pink on one side, and bought six of them. I haven't tasted one yet, but it gives me hope that there may be a visual way to detect when they're ripe.
posted by Bruce H. at 8:17 PM on November 10, 2017


Pre-Turkey Day update: The Winesaps were delicious. Pie will be a blend of Baldwin, Arkansas Black and Calville Blanc.
posted by zamboni at 4:29 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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