An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so they say. Sometimes those apples are bland and tasteless, and sometimes they are crisp, juicy, and the talk of the town — like the Honeycrisp apple.
The Honeycrisp apple was created by the University of Minnesota in 1960, as part of their apple-breeding program to develop winter-hardy cultivars with high-fruit quality. They are a combination of Macoun and Honeygold. In 1974, it was selected to be reproduced.
The reason Honeycrisp apples are gaining popularity has to do with their taste, according to Shannon Rowe at Spicer Orchards in Hartland Township. She said, “Honeycrisp tastes so good because they are juicier than any other apple.” This is because the cells of this apple are larger, which makes it juicier when bitten into.
It seems people like them because they are crisp and firm, adding a nice crunch. Rowe said, “They have a mixture of sweet and tart that creates a unique and flavorful apple.” Another bonus of this apple, Rowe added, is that “they have a longer shelf life when stored in a cool, dry location.”
According to honeycrisp.org, “The outstanding flavor and texture can be maintained for at least six months in refrigerated storage without atmosphere modification.”
Honeycrisp apples are pricey, as anyone who has purchased them can attest to. Rowe said, “They are high priced because they have exploded in popularity and there are a smaller number of trees in production.” Because it takes five to seven years for a tree to begin producing, farmers aren’t quick to catch up to the demand.
She also pointed out, “They are more difficult to grow since they are a high-maintenance tree that needs special care.”
This special care includes picking more often since they ripen at various rates on the same tree, and the need for specific soil conditions to create that fantastic taste. Rowe said, “Our farm has been lucky because the natural soil conditions have led to an excellent flavored Honeycrisp.”
The price also reflects the higher labor cost, because they must be thinned by hand in the springtime because they produce many blossom clusters. “You want to have just a few blossoms per cluster to have a nice large apple,” said Rowe.
An interesting fact, shared on honeycrisp.org is that the Honeycrisp is protected under the U.S. Plant Patent Act (Plant Patent No. 7197). According to the site, it can only be propagated by licensed parties.
“Firms or individuals desiring to propagate and sell trees of Honeycrisp must apply for a license from the University of Minnesota, Office of Patents and Licensing.”
Where the Honeycrisp comes from
• Macoun — originated in Trenton, Ontario, the fruit is similar to McIntosh, but smaller. It is richly flavored and aromatic. This east coast favorite is small to medium-size and wine red in color. It’s crisp, juicy and sweetly tart. The Macoun is considered an all-purpose apple, but is especially good for eating out of hand. Macoun apples make a perfect dessert choice.
• Honeygold — a cross between a Golden Delicious and Haralson, giving it the flavor and characteristics of a Golden, but hardier. It is good for eating as well as for cooking, with a medium storage life. The flavor is sweeter and blander than Golden Delicious.