Thursday, October 2, 2008

Honeycrisp *

Full disclosure: Honeycrisp makes my teeth hurt.

Lots of people like the sweet juicy guys, though, and you might too.

It's a handsome fruit, running medium-to-large, with a streaky red blush over yellow (to yellow-green). There's a little ribbing and some russet in the stem well, and spots that look light tan against the blush and a darker green where there is none. The surface is a little uneven, with minor pocks and swells, but the effect is not unattractive.

The flesh is firm, a crisp coarse yellow that holds a lot of juice. The flavor is super sweet with very little balancing tartness and negligible acidity; there are accents of pear and melon. Honeycrisp's flavor is simple, direct, and consistent from the beginning of the first bite to the end of the last.

These apples are popular. Minnesota has already made Honeycrisp the official state fruit. Like Macoun, it commands a premium at the market.

I doubt that there are many devotees of both, though. If you think apples should taste like candy, you won't care much for those that suggest wine--and vice versa.

The sign at Farmers market for these summarized their appeal as "Explosively Sweet." If apples mean candy to you, here is your fruit. Some people like explosively sweet tea, too.

Even though I find Honeycrisp cloying. I admit: I ate the whole thing down to the core.

The University of Minnesota, which holds the patent on Honeycrisps and introduced them in 1991, has a detailed enumeration of their virtues. Wikipedia's Honeycrisp entry challenges the theory that Honeycrisp is a scion of Macoun and shines some inadvertent light on where new apple varieties come from.

Update: If you like Honeycrisp, you may also like these.

24 comments:

  1. Early Saturday evening prime time nationwide TV here in Kiwiland we have a weekly farming/rural show. Last night was on an apple orchard so I took note. It was on the establishment of the first orchard here in NZ of the previously unknown (to us) variety called Honeycrisp, to be grown for off-season export to the US.

    The inventor/discoveror/owner of Honeycrisp from U of Minn was here for the launch, etc. The whole crop will be exported so Honeycrisp will remain unavailable in NZ.

    Some snippets from the show that I wrote down. The orchard has 16,000 trees, and each one is pruned to have 37 fruit bearing limbs. Their previous specialty was supply of Gala to the UK supermarket chain Sainsburys. Interestingly the UK market requires small apples, unlike the US/Asia which requires large apples.

    They use a low spray and biological pest targeting regime which means they had to completely upgrade their post-harvest apple washing system to get all the extra good and bad bugs off the apples. The automated apple grader/packer sorts the apples by size and mixes and matches them so that each carton of apples is full to the top but only contains the required 18 kilograms of apples.

    Wel anyway, you probably know much of this but it was interesting to see how a large orchard worked.

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  2. This is all about Honeycrisp taking over the world.

    Nova Scotia is subsidizing Honeycrisp trees, and there is a bill in the U.S. Congress that would do the same here.

    A subsidy war is brewing; soon growers won't be able to afford not to plant Honeycrisp.

    With New Zealand preparing to meet our Honeycrisp needs in the spring and summer, we are on track for all-Honeycrisp, all the time.

    It would be poetic justice if by the time these trees started to bear the public had moved on to something else.

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  3. Have you tried SweeTango? It's a HoneyCrisp x Zestar cross. Many people it's better still. See: http://sweetango.com for more information.
    What do you think about "managed varieties" of apples in general?

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  4. James, I seek out every variety that comes my way. This one hasn't made it to my part of the world yet, but I am sure it will.

    Have you tried it? What is it like?

    I am fine with "managed varieties," assuming you mean apples that (like Sweetango or Honeycrisp) are promoted by marketing campaigns funded by licensing fees, or by an exclusive licensee. Some of these apples are very good.

    But I can't help but notice that most of these new managed varieties have awfully similar flavors. I think that is a product of a winner-take-all marketplace which rewards the "best" variety and says the others aren't any good at all.

    I prefer a "de gustibus" marketplace with lots of choices and variety, and with low barriers to entry, where a fine old variety like Baldwin or a newer one like Topaz is sold even though their patents have expired (which means there are no licensing fees to pay for advertising).

    It will be interesting to see what happens to Honeycrisp now that its patent has expired. Will the public stay the course or be seduced by the next marketing campaign?

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  5. Много добри ябълки

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  6. "Много добри ябълки" = "Many good apples" in Bulgaria.

    Thank you for visiting!

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  7. I am certainly no expert in apples, my favorite fruit being the cranberry:) But, Honeycrisp will keep me coming to it long after the patent runs out. I just tried a Pacific Rose...it was expensive $ per pd, and I wondered why? I was unfamiliar with the name and thought to give it a go. It was very good!!...but Honeycrisp you have my heart:) And thanks Kiwi for your informative post...very interesting. I now know why I am seeing a 'spattering' of Honeycrisp in some stores as we speak...they are few and far between, but can be found. But truly, the Honeycrisp from western WI cannot be beat.

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  8. @naturemich, I think we are seeing Honeycrisp become a year-round apple, much as Granny Smith and Red Delicious are today.

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  9. I just wanted to chime in as say that I indeed love Macoun and Honeycrisp both for eating out of hand. Macoun clearly has much more going on for complexity of flavor and I like the smaller size. Honeycrisp is like a healthy candy.....sweet and crunchy! These would be good to buy and try together.

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  10. So after hearing a lot of raves and praises for the honeycrisp is it actually worth the hype? I'm a huge fan of Pacific Roses and other apples dull in comparison. So how does the honeycrisp measure up to the Pacific Rose?

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  11. Angela, both apples have extremely loyal followings--just read the comments above. And they are both modern apples bred for sweetness.

    Still I do not think of them as being very much alike really. Pacific Rose has much better flavors, in my view.

    The best way to satisfy your curiosity is to give Honeycrisp a try. The two varieties are not widely available at the same time of year anyway.

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  12. I did not realize how expensive honeycrisps were! I did buy one to try and you are right, the pacific rose is quite different AND I definitely prefer it over the honeycrisp. It's so hard to eat other apples after Pacific Roses now!

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  13. Angela, because of their popularity, Honeycrisp commands a premium at the market. It is also tricky to grow.

    In my part of the world, the only other apple to be similarly priced is Macoun.

    Good for you for trying something new. Now you know.

    If you like Pacific Rose, I wonder what you would make of such highly flavored English varieties as Cox's Orange Pippin. Not as sweet as Rose, but marvelously complex.

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  14. Can not find the answer - This variety is immune to scab?

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    Replies
    1. Welcome, Andrey!

      The various agricultural extentions services seem to agree that Honecrisp resists scab well, but is not immune.

      Ontario, for example, notes,

      One positive attribute of ‘Honeycrisp™’ is that it is highly resistant to venturia sp. (apple scab) but not completely immune.

      See also John Clements writing for UMass.

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  15. Adam, thank you so much for your help.
    (Links are very useful)

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  16. Adam, I think you describe Honeycrisp really accurately. We do like them at my house. Horrible to think it was nearly discarded as a cultivar!

    Thanks for maintaining such an impressive list of apple varieties here! Up with heirloom, and down with monoculture!

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    1. Maddy, thank you! I share your appreciation of the heritage varieties, but like you also value some of the newer apples, such as Honeycrisp.

      The interesting question for me is, what does it take to get more choices at the market?

      Old or new, is there room for breeds with different characteristics? Or will the structure of markets only allow well-financed sugar bombs to succeed?

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  17. I love a lot of different apples. Top favorite is still is McIntosh. Though I love Nova Mac, Gala, Cortland, Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Spartan, Ambrosia and Golden Delicious too name a few.

    I just got a Honeycrisp trees, for $20 dollars. I was hoping to grow some, since they are so expensive to buy. $3.99 CAN a pound, though in season they go for as cheap as $1.25 CAN a pound.

    Was wondering what would be good trees to grow with it? Or what would be good to pollinate it. Was also thinking of trying to cross it with a McIntosh or Cortland because they grow really well here. Specially since they are my top three favorite apples.

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    1. I quite like the idea of one's own micro-breeding program. Why should big operations like UMinn have all the fun and glory? And crossing Honeycrisp with a tart apple like McIntosh could be truly great.

      Orange Pippin has a partial list of HCrisp pollinators that includes Cortland and Macoun.

      Goog luck, let us know how it goes!

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  18. I love this apple, with a nice chunk of apple wood smoked Havarti or Cheddar cheese. It's expensive for sure, and often difficult to find. We get it in December and then by mid-January you'll be hard pressed to find any in the stores.

    Like Byron, I've gone so far as to get my own tree - a 6-way espalier with each branch a different variety to ensure even the triploid varieties get pollinated. It's in it's 2nd year of producing fruit. It hasn't been great. Too much rain and cold in spring and summer and a very hot and dry, prolonged Indian Summer that lasted through end of October made for a very poor harvest.

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  21. I have avoided the Honeycrisp for many years now. From what I recall, they were big, juicy and innocuously sweet with little personality (in that case, very much like the Pacific Rose.) I recently discovered smaller and more 'orchard-y' looking ones (not uniform in shape, thicker skin) at Walmart and decided to give them another shot. The two that I've had so far have been barely sweet at all and very sour/bitter not unlike a grapefruit.
    I'm wondering if this is due to overbreeding? Sitting too long? Not long enough? I don't know much about how apples age. Once they are in my possession, they don't last long. :)

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