Sunday, May 20, 2018

A fairy tale that's not even wrong

"Honeycrisp Saves the World"

magical apples floating in air bearing tiny houses

Recently National Public Radio's "Planet Money" decided to explain apples to us.

Because the true story of the apple and cider renaissance is so boring, the explanation came in the form of a fairy tale, once upon a time, in which nearly every story element is unfaithful to the truth.

The villain? Red Delicious. The hero? Honeycrisp.

Got that? Hover your mouse over text for commentary.

Once upon a time, evil Red Delicious reigned over the land. It was the only apple you could eat or grow, and sensible people learned to hate all apples.

Then a sensible person invented Honeycrisp, which overthrew Red Delicious and opened the supermarket doors to other apples such as Pink Lady.

And they all lived happily ever after (unless you like something besides Honeycrisp).

Look. Honeycrisp is a significant apple, in part because of what it tells us about the structure of the apple industry. It is interesting, and popular. So it is ripe for an economic story.

Fairy with magic wandIronically, Planet Money gets that part wrong too.

Thanks for NPRsplaining!

And by the way, the choices in supermarkets are still nothing to brag about.
Were I to write a story about apples, it would start with the refrigerated boxcar, prohibition, and the rise of supermarkets.

These and other factors eclipsed the vibrant culture of apples and cider that nourished early America and reached its pinnacle during the 19th century.

Red Delicious, modified, twisted, and exploited, would be a tragic figure, not a mustache-twirling villain.

The heroes would be the farmers, gardeners, and horticulturalists who kept the wonderful heritage varieties alive, and the modern day apple sleuths who are recovering lost heirlooms.

Other champions would be the university breeding programs, many at land-grant schools. Most of their apples, not just Honeycrisp, would feature in the story.

And the band of intrepid revival cider makers would also count as lionhearts who are moving us all to a diverse, tasty apple future.

I'll drink to that!



  1. Good one. I think you should write that story :)

    1. I am no stranger to pastiche, but for some reason the muse of fairy tales is not speaking to me on this one.

      In some respects this whole blog is that story.


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