Monday, September 21, 2009

field trip: Searching for the SweeTango Apple

HoneyCrisp Apples September is a great time for fresh apples. So I returned to the University of Minnesota Apple House to find some of their freshest. I first visited the area for a field tour of their experimental kiwi orchard. But this time I was on the search for a brand new apple that’s gaining some big press, the SweeTango.

U of M Apple HouseI called the Apple House’s apple availability hotline at 10:40 AM, and they listed limited quantities of the SweeTango as available. But they opened at 10:00 AM, so I began my mad rush and a 45 minute drive to get some before they were gone. During my last visit, I got a few pictures of the new apple growing in the orchard but I never got to taste it. As I pulled up to the Apple House it didn’t look that busy. But as I walked up to the entrance, I was greeted by a disappointing sign. It looks I’ll be missing out on my first taste of the SweeTango, and I’ll be waiting until 2010 with the rest of the country.

SweeTango gone for seasonWhat makes the SweeTango so special? Well it’s the child of the popular Honeycrisp and Zestar apples. It’s described as a sweet and surprisingly juicy apple with hints of fall spices. It also features the satisfying crunch of the Honeycrisp, which is the U of M’s latest claim to fame in the apple world. The Honeycrisp reminds me of biting into refreshing apple cider. It’s that good. So it sounds like the hoopla surrounding the SweeTango may be warranted.

SweeTango OrchardHere’s a few facts on the SweeTango.

Origin - Developed by the same apple breeders at the University of Minnesota who released the popular Honeycrisp. SweeTango has quite the "family tree" and is a cross between two very popular apples - Honeycrisp (mom) and Zestar! (dad) - yet it delivers its own unique flavor and tasting experience.

Flavor - Juicy and sweet with hints of fall spices, SweeTango's flavor, balanced by vibrant acidity, dances to a long and satisfying finish on the palate. It also features the satisfying "crunch" of a Honeycrisp.

Appearance - SweeTango is a blush apple with deep red coloration over a yellow breaking background.

Availability - SweeTango will hit the shelves, in limited volumes, at select retailers beginning in fall of 2009. SweeTango is an early-season apple, harvested in late August and early September.

Also, during my last visit to the orchard, I overheard James Luby, from the U of M’s departments of horticultural science, mention a tree that was a cross between an Asian pear and a European pear. Well I had to nonchalantly pick one and try it, and it’s an awesome pear. No tough skin and no mealy flesh. It had the inside texture of an Asian pear but with the tender skin of a European pear. I hope they market this fruit as well. You may find something similar in the grocery store, marketed as Apple Pears because of their round appearance. (I swear they dumb down us consumers with names like that.) But I think the cross I tasted was 10 times better.

Asian Pear & European Pear Cross

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