For the past few years now, Honeycrisp apples have been everything and everywhere. I know that they quickly became my favorite, go-to apple once my husband and I decided to try one, although with how expensive they can be – they are a bit of a luxury item in our kitchen (but so worth it). I also can honestly say that I have never actually thought in-depth about how apples are “made” so to speak. Yes they grow on trees, yes I have heard of cross-pollination, but the amount of science that truly goes into growing apples is quite fascinating.
Why am I writing an article about apples? Well for one, Washington is famous for apples. I also recently had the chance to try Stemilt Growers‘ newest product, the Rave® apple. Based in Wenatchee, Stemilt is one of the leading tree fruit companies that grows, packs, ships and markets fresh apples and other fruits worldwide. Operated by the Mathison Family since the land was homesteaded in 1893, third-generation farmer, Tom Mathison, founded Stemilt Growers in 1964, and was a pioneer in seeking out better growing practices, building modern fruit packing and storage facilities and was an early adopter in both organic and sustainable agriculture.
I will get into how the Rave® apple tasted in a moment, but when I went to sit down and write this article, I started reading about what goes into growing them and the biologist in me was in awe with what I was discovering.
Back to the Honeycrisp, according to Stemilt, Honeycrisp apples were discovered in 1960 as part of the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program. Researcher David Bedford used traditional cross-pollination methods to develop the Honeycrisp – which at that time, was destined to be thrown out, but he saved from discarding. In 2017, a University of Minnesota graduate, Nick Howard, used DNA sequencing to confirm that Honeycrip is a combination of two University of Minnesota apples, the Keepsake and MN1627.
And now, we welcome Rave® apples to the world! Rave® apples were bred naturally through cross-pollination of a Honeycrisp and MonArk by David Bedford in 1997 (in the cultivar world, the apple is scientifically known as MN55). Why are they just now coming on the market? It takes years to prepare a new brand of apple for commercial production. Rave® is exclusively licensed by the University of Minnesota and Stemilt holds the license to grow, pack and market Rave® apples in North America. These apples are harvested in Washington in late July. Most apples can’t be harvested until mid-August or September, so the early harvest is quite unusual!
What’s behind the trademarked name? Rave® plays off with an incredible crunch and juicy flavor. Is the name true to taste? Let’s find out!
Stemilt recently me six Rave® apples to try out. I had them send to my office and eagerly exclaimed to my colleagues that we were some of the first in the world to try out these new apples. I took one and cut it into multiple pieces to share with everyone.
Over ten of my colleagues happened to be around the day I received the shipment and I can proudly say that ten out of ten fell in love with the Rave® apple – and dare I say, even a few commented on how they tasted better than Honeycrisp!
The Rave® apple is indeed sweet and refreshing with a snappy zing that only your palate can describe. I had to keep cutting up more of the apples as my colleagues wanted more and more. I still have a few left that I am tempted to try in recipes, but really I just want to eat them the way they came off the tree. They are delicious! I can’t wait to see the Rave® apple at my local store so I can add them to my weekly grocery runs!