First we had the Great Grape Salad Scandal.
Now it’s Apple Wars.
In 2014, the New York Times christened an all but unknown fruit salad a quintessential Minnesota Thanksgiving recipe.
On Tuesday, the paper dissed the darling of the apple world — the Minnesota-developed Honeycrisp, calling it “soft.”
The article, “Beyond the Honeycrisp Apple,” went on to call its flavor “inconsistent,” declare it “maddeningly difficult to grow” and predicted it would be unseated by the Cosmic Crisp, which was developed in balmy central Washington.
The comments shook some branches here in Minnesota.
“Whoa! What Honeycrisp are you talking about?” demanded David Bedford, who’s been an apple breeder at the University of Minnesota for 37 years.
“To call it soft is a complete misnomer,” said Bedford of the beloved Honeycrisp, which he describes as “explosively crisp.”
Honeycrisp, he said, remains one of the top sellers in the country, and its popularity is still climbing.
“This is a great apple,” agreed John Jacobson, an owner of Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake. “It’s world-class.”
Problems lie not in the apple itself, said Bedford, but how it’s treated. Honeycrisp is perfectly suited to be grown in our somewhat, uh, challenging climate. If it’s planted in too warm a climate, picked too early and handled too roughly, its taste can be compromised.
Bedford suspects there also may be some jealousy at work here. “Honeycrisp is such an easy target because it’s a rising star. Everybody wants to take a potshot at it.”
He and others say the homegrown apple is unlikely to be toppled by another apple anytime soon. It can take decades to develop a new variety and even longer for growers to embrace it and consumers to ask for it.
“To have someone come out and say ‘this is going to be the next apple from heaven’ is kind of hard,” said Jacobson. While he grows 15 different varieties, he dedicates about a quarter of his growing range to Honeycrisp.
Bedford has tasted the Cosmic Crisp, the apple that New York Times writer David Karp called “the most promising and important apple of the future.” Bedford thought Cosmic Crisp was “good,” but added “I don’t know if it’s got rock star quality. Honeycrisp is likely to stay on top for at least another decade.”
So, how ’bout them apples?