Monday, November 18, 2019

Western Slope Honeycrisp

I was in Boulder (Colorado) for less than 20 minutes when I first heard praise for "western slope Honeycrisps," the best apples in the world.

Apple on a rock with a distant mountain peak in the background

Within the hour, I'd heard it again, from my landlady. She had one ready for me.

Best apple in the world: that's debatable. But it was the best Honeycrisp I have ever had. (And we now know what they like to eat in Boulder!)

The slope in question is the western side of the Rocky Mountains. This area participates in the milder Pacific climate region while still seeing plenty of chilly nights, useful to set apple flavors.

There is no accounting for taste, and mine finds Honeycrisp to be too sweet by a good lot.

Some from other parts of the country have written to say, however, that the Honeycrisps they get are more balanced.

West side story

I carried that Honeycrisp to the top of Mount Sanitas, a popular local hike, and ate it there.

With  distant scenery in the bacckround, a boulder with a metal plaque that reads "Mount Sanitas: The trail along the east ridge of Mount Sanitas was constructed by volunteers for Outdoor Colorado in coordination with the City of Boulder Open Space Dept. On May 19th and 20th 1990.

(You can't tell, but the slope in the background of my apple photo at top includes part of Boulder's iconic Flatirons, from the side.)

The apple was less sweet (though still sweet!) than other Honeycrisps, and even had a dab of tart.

The better balance allowed me to make out some honeydew melon and a little acid tang, very welcome in the sea of sugar.

I have sometimes wondered what I might find were Honeycrisp's sweetness dialed down to a mere 11. Now I know.

The apple was just as crisp as ever.

Boulder. Colorado.


  1. Another tip: eat at The Kitchen, fabulous food and atmosphere.

    1. I'll keep it in mind for my next visit! Hopefully during apple season.

  2. Replies
    1. Well, I think it's clear there are differences that reflect general climate and, perhaps, geology.

      But my understanding of terroir is more fine-grained than that, so I'm not sure.

  3. As a Broomfield resident, I made the half hour drive to the Boulder Farmers market almost every weekend this year to try the apples. Multiple vendors from the Western slope attended, as well as one - Masonville orchards - from the eastern side near Fort Collins.

    You're right about apples being different in different climates. It's very dry here, often with hot days and cold nights during the summer. Many of the apples I got from the market here were smaller than I've seen them elsewhere, which I assume helps with the more intense flavors. I do enjoy honeycrisps when they're "good", but too often from the supermarket I find their flavor lacking. The ones from the market I really enjoyed, extremely sweet but tart enough to be good. The east slope honeycrisps were significantly smaller than the typical grocery apples. (I think it's generally harder to grow orchards and gardens on the eastern side due to more erratic weather, with late and early freezes plus the hail).

    Other apples I particularly enjoyed here this season were Zestar, Jonathan, and Cox Orange Pippin (first time I've ever had that, and it was excellent).

    1. Andrew, perhaps you can imagine my disappointment when I realized my flight would get in just an hour too late for me to visit the farmers market in Boulder.

      There was really nothing to be done about it.

  4. Adam, I so enjoyed meeting you at the PE Meetup and sharing one of your (Russet?) apples. I also appreciate your in depth knowledge and helpfulness with Blogger. I hope to meet up again next year at another PE event. - or maybe as we travel thru Massachusetts next summer.
    Have you tried using extra apples to make applesauce in the Instant Pot? So easy and so good!

    1. Mutually I am sure, Chris! And the apple in question was Dr. Ashmead's Kernel, excellent and lemony.


Join the conversation! We'd love to know what you think.