This is a big year for the Honeycrisp. Not only is the apple celebrating 20 years of good taste, but the Minnesota-made favorite also is reminding us that it’s thoroughly rooted in the North Star State.
On the anniversary of Honeycrisp being available in your grocer’s produce aisle, we’re sharing 20 things you didn’t know about the fruit that put Minnesota on the apple-making map.
1. It was developed in the Twin Cities by the University of Minnesota’s fruit breeding program.
2. It’s one in 10,000. That’s how many apple trees make it through the rigorous development and testing process to become named and marketed.
3. It took 31 years to develop the Honeycrisp. The first crosses were made in 1960. The tree was released to apple growers in 1991.
4. It did not land on grocery store shelves until 1997, when Pepin Heights Orchards made its first delivery of Honeycrisps to Lunds.
5. Honeycrisp is now one of the top five bestselling apples in the country.
6. At one point, the Honeycrisp tree was slated to be axed, but apple breeder David Bedford decided to give it another chance to prove itself. It did.
7. Its success led to more Minnesota-made apples, including Zestar, Frostbite and SnowSweet.
8. Its first name was MN 1711. (Admittedly, not very sexy.)
9. It was not given a better name until it was released to commercial and backyard growers.
10. Unlike most apples (the names of which are the result of marketing committees, focus groups and trademark research), Honeycrisp was named by two apple breeders in their office — a converted farmhouse in Victoria.
11. Its cells are larger than those of most apples. That’s how it got to be so explosively crunchy.
12. Because of its delicate skin, Honeycrisps require a little more TLC than most apples. “It’s not an easy apple to grow,” said Bedford.
13. Like other apples, it has small brown spots on the skin — called lenticels — that allow the apple to breathe.
14. The lenticels also have a potential downside. In hot, dry summers, they leave the apples vulnerable to infections.
15. Its success spurred more apple breeding in Minnesota and led to many new varieties, “It saved the apple industry, particularly in the Midwest,” Bedford said.
16. A true artisan apple, it costs twice as much as a Red Delicious, which is widely considered the Budweiser of apples.
17. Honeycrisp was thought to be the offspring of Honeygold and Macoun (from somewhere out East). This year, a researcher used DNA testing to discover its real parents, are both native Minnesotans: Keepsake and MN1627 (which never made it into production).
18. SweeTango, another U of M release, is the love child of Honeycrisp and Zestar.
19. Like most Minnesotans, Honeycrisp loves cold weather. In fact, it needs a cold climate to develop its crispy texture and honey-sweet flavor.
20. This year’s batch of Honeycrisp apples will be available soon.