If you’ve ever thought that apples were a boring fruit, think again. Every type of apple you can think of (Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, you name it!) has been carefully selected for its taste, crispiness, and colour. Apples have a lot of science behind them – breeding science that turns a plain apple into a culinary feat.
In an article published in the New York Times this week (Beyond The Honeycrisp Apple), writer David Karp explores some new varieties of apples that may be popping up in your supermarkets over the next few years. Varieties such as Cosmic Crisp, developed at Washington State University, are the next best thing in apple breeding. A cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp varieties, the Cosmic Crisp apple promises to be juicier, crispier, and tastier than ever before. The variety is on track to be distributed to growers in 2017, as WSU waits for propagation to take place.
Apples are a pretty special type of fruit when it comes to breeding. Many varieties of apple are designed with selective breeding, rather than genetic modification. This means that two varieties (in this case, Enterprise and Honeycrisp) are manually pollinated with each other. The seeds that develop are then planted and grown, and the resulting trees that display the desired Cosmic Crisp traits are chosen. These chosen trees are propagated and grown as fruit-producing trees. From there, Cosmic Crisp apples can be grown and sold! Of course, the process takes quite a few years while waiting for the trees to grow, so it is a bit slower than simply modifying the variety in a lab.
Thinking about the breeding that goes into your apples, it’s pretty amazing the flavours breeders have come up with. While there are still some heirloom breeds available, such as Granny Smith and McIntosh, almost every other type of apple you see at a grocery store has been bred to that quality. Still think an apple is a boring fruit?
Emma — The Suburban Aggie