Apple naming, generally, is left to the experts.Honeycrisp, SnowSweet, Zestar -- all thought up by a couple of University of Minnesota horticulture scientists.
But this time, with this apple, the public had a say.
During a contest this fall, people suggested about 7,000 names for the apple formerly known as MN447.
"It was a little like letting your friends at work choose the name of your child," Prof. Jim Luby said.After months of narrowing down the "huge pile" to 60, to 10, to one, the small, cold-hardy breed bears a name suggested independently by eight Minnesotans: Frostbite.
One winner, Eden Prairie resident Lisa Rolf, entered 12 names and took all of them seriously: "It's like writing a one-word novel," she said.
"You have to capture the character and the drama of the apple-breeding process itself."
In addition to submitting names, the stay-at-home mom and part-time poet submitted slogans. Frostbite's: "If you want to reach for one of these apples, you better protect your extremities."
The name is new, but the apple is not. Frostbite has been a part of the U's breeding program since the 1920s and is best known for its superstar grandson, the Honeycrisp.
Never meant for the grocery store, the apple is small, often cracks at its top and has an odd flavor. Like Hawaiian Punch, perhaps, or "raw sugarcane on steroids," David Bedford, the U's apple breeder, has said.
In fact, the breed performs "terribly" in taste tests: One or two testers in 20 might give it high marks. But apple breeding now focuses on those one or two. It's their version of niche marketing. And Frostbite's good for cider.
Although the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offered samples during the contest, Bonnie Winzenberg didn't try it. She had requested her single entry form from her home in Brainerd.
But she knew the apple "wasn't real red and fresh and bright," she said. "It had a look that was almost like, gosh, if it's winter and somebody's got frostbite, it might look like that."
Nurseries will begin grafting Frostbite trees this summer, selling them in 2009 and planting them by 2010, Luby said. Their fruit won't make it to the farmer's market until 2014.
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168