Autumn is in full swing! Here at UBC Botanical Garden the annual Apple Fest celebrations are taking place this weekend–and the weather is looking good!
Malus ‘MN #1711’, far better known as honeycrisp apple, is one of the many kinds of apples that will be sold this weekend. This cultivar was developed at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center, within a breeding program “to develop winter hardy varieties with high fruit quality”. The process from seedling to market is a long one in apple breeding. Planted as a seed of known parentage in 1962 (Malus ‘Macoun’ x Malus ‘Honeygold’), it was identified as a potentially-improved apple in 1974 by Dr. David Bedford (and somewhere around this time designated ‘MN #1711’ or Minnesota 1711). The variety was patented in the USA in 1988 and an attempt was made to trademark the name Honeycrisp in 1991 (in the USA), but the application was abandoned. The trademark application states: “For: apple trees, namely variety Minnesota 1711 R”, suggesting that Malus ‘MN #1711’ was intended to be the legitimate cultivar name (as the hoped-for trademarked name could not be a cultivar name). Since the first commercial sales in the last decade of the 20th century, Malus ‘MN #1711’ has become one of the most popular apple cultivars where it is available.
Honeycrisp apples are juicy, sweet, tart, firm and described as “explosively crisp”; this signature crunch is due to the apples having cells twice as large as most other apple cultivars. The colour of the fruit is long-lasting, usually a vibrant red with striping over a yellow base. This apple variety is also known for its stellar keeping qualities and very long shelf life. Like many apple varieties, they can be stored for months in low-oxygen environments with cold temperatures, and are therefore available as a “fresh” commodity through most of the year.
It is estimated that the growth and production of honeycrisp apples costs two to three times as much than that of other top-sellers like Malus ‘Gala’ and Malus ‘Fuji’. Demand by consumers for Malus ‘MN #1711′ proved to farmers that the market was willing to pay a premium for a superior variety. As noted in the previous link, “It has consistently ranked as one of the highest quality apples in the University of Minnesota sensory evaluations”.