Remember when the Red Delicious apple was the greatest apple to have?
When I was a child, we had a huge apple tree in our back yard that produced the best apples. They were especially good when picked on a cold, frosty morning when the ground was still covered in shimmery white and the apples were equally as cold as the air around them.
They weren't large apples, but they were hard and crisp, so much so that they cracked with each bite, and the sound was sometimes so loud it could be heard across the yard. I don't know the variety, but I suspect they were Red Delicious, which originated in the late 1800s and were still popular to grow nearly 100 years later.
Now when I see someone with a large, dark Red Delicious, I want to grab it from them and replace it with any number of varieties that are so much better.
Although fall in northeast Ohio is apple season, thanks to worldwide travel making the globe a much smaller place, apples are available in our grocery stores year-round. That doesn't meant what we can buy year-round are the best or the tastiest.
Each year as apple season is beginning, I can't wait to get my hands on a cool, tart Honeycrisp. It has been my apple of choice for the past three years.
We are limited to whatever the market feels will sell the best, not to mention what is easiest to grow. Some apples, like Honeycrisp, are a bit more temperamental. They are an early season apple and aren't hardy enough to be available year-round, like Red Delicious, Macintosh, Gala or Fuji. Even Granny Smith aren't as prevalent these days as they once were, probably because their popularity waned after customers began buying other varieties instead.
A few years ago, I'd never heard of a Honeycrisp apple. It was while making the regular rounds to area communities for my job that someone I'd dealt with quite often offered me a few slices of a Honeycrisp.
''Try this,'' she said, ''and you'll never eat another kind of apple again.''
Although I still do buy an occasional Fuji, she was pretty much right-on with her prediction of the Honeycrisp. Now I wait each year for these small, juicy delights to come in season. When I know it will be soon, I start trying to satisfy my anticipating tastebuds by substituting other varieties, even though I know they can't live up to Honeycrisp.
The birth of the Honeycrisp apple isn't an accident. According to the website, Honeycrisp.org, this variety was developed as far back as 1960 by the University of Minnesota's Horticultural Research Center from a cross of parent apple varieties, Macoun and Honeygold. Macoun, the website says, is originated from Trenton, Ontario, and Honeygold is a cross between Golden Delicious and Haralson. The apple itself was introduced to the public in 1991 and has gradually gained in popularity ever since.
Also according to the website, the Honeycrisp variety is not an easy variety to grow. The tree can get quite heavy with fruit, resulting in the need for thinning. Otherwise it can pull down the branches and affect the overall performance of the tree. In addition, these trees are protected under the U.S. Plant Patent Act and can only be propagated by licensed nurseries.
Honeycrisp apple trees are hardy in zones 3 to 6. They are not self-pollinating, which means in order to get fruit, a second tree of a different variety must be planted nearby to act as a cultivator. Even crabapples will work.
Honeycrisp trees like full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Newly planted seedlings should be given at least one-inch of water each week throughout the summer and fertilized in spring.
According to growers, the variety also has no genetic resistance to insects or disease and are susceptible to apple scab and blight.