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Lileks: These apples would strike a sour note

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • September 15, 2012 - 5:48 PM

A new fresh crop of apples is on the way, a sure sign of fall. But it's a reminder that our famed University of Minnesota Apple Geniuses haven't come up with a new apple lately.

The Honeycrisp, of course, is justly famous, but it was released to the public in 1991. The SweeTango got good reviews when it came out a few years back, but people felt silly saying the name; always comes out "Swede-tango," which makes it sound like some awkward dance where you don't touch.

Why no new apples? Well, it takes awhile to breed new varieties. You can't tape together two trees in a shotgun wedding and expect results. The SweeTango, for example, was a careful combination of the Honeycrisp and the Zestar, which was named after the home planet of the aliens who gave university scientists the pollen.

Also, not every new apple makes the market. Here are some notable failures from recent years:

Mealysour: Specially bred to be that thing that comes back in your kid's lunch with exactly one tiny bite taken out.

The Crapple: Name given by focus test group; observers characterized the members of the group as "weeping, disturbed, furious."

Hardy Red: The result of a years-long effort to develop an apple that would not bruise, the Hardy Red's taste may never be known, since no one can bite its tough, dense skin.

Granny Smith's Divorced Husband, Walter: Described as a "bitter" fruit that "somehow manages to ruin every family gathering."

Elppa: The flesh is on the outside, and the skin is on the inside.

The APPle: Its skin resembled brushed aluminum; first fruit with Wi-Fi. Release was banned by a judge after a large computer maker filed a copycat lawsuit.

They can only release apples that have a chance of catching on, because the stakes are high. According to the Association of University Technology Managers, the Honeycrisp apple is "one of the top 25 innovations that changed the world," according to Wikipedia. I'm thinking it's probably below "light bulbs," but possibly above "The Talking Bass Plaque."

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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