DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — New Apples

Regional apple growers are excited to face an avalanche of fruit this fall as the late apples are harvested.

However, some trees didn’t bloom last spring, or the rains were a problem that cut the blooms and the yield.

Many of the apples we enjoyed either fresh or in apple treats were developed right here in Minnesota. Peter Gideon is given credit as the first apple grower in the Gopher State.

He began his apple breeding work in 1853 at his homestead on Lake Minnetonka near Excelsior. He used seed to obtain a healthy, tough apple tree. But with exception of a single Siberian crabapple, they perished in the Minnesota cold.

He bought more seed from a Maine apple grower, and he obtained a successful cross. The apple was called Wealthy, named after his wife. In 1900, this variety was still among the top five apples still grown.

The number of apple varieties is staggering. Some of the recent hits have been the famed Honeycrisp and Telstar.

This year, three apples with distinctive traits have been selected to join honor roll of apples. They are Snow Sweet, Frostbite and SweeTango.

  • Snow Sweet produces savory, sweet fruit with a slight tart balance. An added benefit is how slowly the fruit turn brown when it is cut.

    Frostbite apple was developed at the University of Minnesota.
    Frostbite apple was developed at the University of Minnesota.
  • Frostbite fills a special niche. It is an extremely hardy tree with small fruit that tastes almost like sugarcane. It is very sweet and juicy.
  • SweeTango reflects breeding that is a cross of Honeycrisp and Zestar. The fruit delivers its own unique flavor and crunch.

Honey crisp still takes honors. Since its release in 1991, millions of Honeycrisp trees have been planted and have successfully produced excellent fruit.

Experimental work has also impacted other horticulture crops. And it all started on a pioneer farm in Minnesota.

Winter break

I will be taking a break from mid-October to April. If all goes well, I’ll look forward to seeing you all again in spring.


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