Apple is sweet reward for years of U research

The University has been working for 36 years on the new Snowsweet apple.

by Yelena Kibasova

There’s nothing like biting into a sweet, juicy apple.

Following the huge success of their Honeycrisp and Zestar apples, University scientists are ready for the debut of a new variety called Snowsweet.

Though the name is not yet official, the Snowsweet apple will be distributed in 2006. It will be several years before the apple is ready for public consumption, said David Bedford, a scientist at the Horticultural Research Center.

It usually takes three to five years for an apple to be fully distributed, Bedford said. The apple trees will be bought in the spring and will take time to yield apples.

Snowsweet, which has a sweet and rich flavor, ripens in early October and has very white flesh. Unlike other apples that turn brown quickly after they are cut or bitten into, the new variety is more resistant to oxidation, he said.

“That’s sort of useful for culinary uses like apples in salad and things like that. It’s a small feature, but one of its unique traits,” Bedford said.

University researchers have been working on this variety for the past 36 years, Bedford said. The new apple is a cross between Sharon and Fireside Connell Red apples.

“It’s an unusually long (development),” Bedford said, “The original cross was made in 1970.”

When breeding, scientists have only a general idea of how the new hybrid will turn out.

“We might have an idea when we make a cross but you really can’t control how the genes go together,” Bedford said.

The horticulture center has been breeding fruit for almost 98 years. Since 1908, it has bred fruit such as apples, grapes, blueberries, pears, strawberries and blackberries.

“Since (1908) we’ve introduced 98 varieties of fruit Ö We’ll be up to 100 probably by next year,” Bedford said.

The center’s main goal was to make plants that could survive the Minnesota winter.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at that part of it so now we’ve moved on to just improving quality,” Bedford said.

In 1991, the University released its trademarked Honeycrisp apples. While most varieties take 12 to 15 years to become popular, the Honeycrisp burst quickly into the market.

“It’s huge right now. It’s the number one apple in the state by far,” Bedford said. “It’s actually spread now throughout the country.”

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum sells different varieties of apples every year at its Apple House.

People start asking for Honeycrisp apples the day they open, said Peter Moe, associate department director at the Arboretum.

“We always sell all the Honeycrisp apples we can grow ourselves,” he said.

The Honeycrisp is known for its texture and taste.

“We call it explosively crisp,” Bedford said.

The center has come out with other varieties, such as the Zestar apple and the Haralson apple.

Each apple is great for many different uses but is better in some forms than others, Bedford said.

The Snowsweet, for example, makes a good applesauce, a reasonably good pie, but is best eaten raw.

Recently the center has also come out with a new variety of grapes called Marquette grapes.

“That’s going to be a new red wine variety,” said Peter Hemstad, research viticulturist at the horticulture center. “So it makes a very high quality red wine in addition to being very cold-hardy.”

Each new variety of fruit goes through a long process before it can be considered for release.

Of the 98 new varieties created by University scientists, 23 have been released.

“We make all sorts of crosses, all sorts of hybridizations each year with all different purposes, all different goals,” Bedford said.