Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bonkers *

“Bonkers” is a nickname for this otherwise nameless apple, but one that is used widely.

These can get positively huge, but I bought two that are merely conventionally large (one a little runty, in fact). Why: it’s mid October and I have to leave room to eat more apples.

The apple in the photo is squat and trapezoidal. Its cross section from the top is oval, rather than round. Turns out there is a reason behind the odd shape, though they aren’t all like that.

Bonkers shows a striking range of colors. There’s a distinct yellow region on every one of these, which contrasts vividly with the dark, almost black, red of the deepest part of the blush.

Of course there is a streaky intermediate area, too, and it is there that the little tan lenticel dots are most visible. They are hard to spot in the saturated darkness, but show as dark greenish specks in the yellow part.

This apple is already fun to play with and I haven’t even tasted it yet! It’s got a cidery aroma.

Inside that peel: the breaking crisp flesh, not superhard, is a course-grained light yellow.

It is on the tart side by modern standards, but balanced with conventional sweetness that is offset nicely by a savory B-vitamin quality that combines with the tart to be slightly sour. The effect is very pleasant.

Otherwise Bonkers's flavors are pretty conventional. It’s a little spicy and there is a citric note that is more pineapple than anything else in particular.

It’s got a bit of a kick to it, which I like but which might not endear Bonkers to the Honeycrisp fan club.

Bonkers's crunch is very good, and I'm wishing I had sprung for the larger model.

This would be a “nibble it down to the core” experience, except for one peculiar thing. There is no core. A little tiny crenelation inside is all.

Bonkers is a seedless apple (which accounts for its lopsided shape).

Did I say “peculiar?” Well, have you ever heard of a seedless apple before?

Bonkers is parthenocarpic, and have you ever heard of that before?

It means that like some seedless grapes (but not all, most are stenospermocarpic), Bonkers fruits asexually.

Wrap your mind around that. It's bonkers.

This variety was developed at Cornell, a Liberty x Red Delicious cross, but never advanced to the commercial stage. In our capitalist age that means no official variety name.

A lot of people like this apple, however, and organic-apple maven Michael Phillips christened it Bonkers. Now many people call it that. You should too.

Read more about the apple, and the name, and parthenocarpy, on the website of Linda Hoffman. She grows the fruit at the delightful Old Frog Pond Farm in Harvard, Massachusetts.

I didn't get my Bonkerses there, but gather that, in a good year, I might have.

Look Ma, no core! This Bonkers has what looks like watercore, but what's left of the core is that tiny wrinkle in the middle. (My other sample had no watercore, if that is even what it is.) Click for larger view.


  1. When you say the flavors are "conventional," do you mean like a Mac style apple? How does it compare to its parent, Liberty? Keep the reviews coming!

    1. Hi Ryan—now that you mention it, that is not the most helpful description, is it?

      Bonkers has a generic cider-ish background flavor, not really very vinous (Mac-ish) but maybe a little. But it does have those other flavors I noted.

      Liberty is sweeter and has less of a kick, but they are not too far apart.


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