On Honeycrisp's 20th Birthday, the Apple's Origin Story

September 14, 2017 09:18 PM

Historically Minnesota has been known for things like lakes and hockey, but over the past couple of decades another somewhat unexpected item has been added to the list: Honeycrisp apples. 

This coming apple season will mark the 20th anniversary of the variety, something that would've shocked the men who brought it to market two decades ago.


"The apple business was a very tough business," said Pepin Heights Orchard owner Dennis Courtier. It was so bad, in fact, Courtier was on the verge of bankruptcy.

As a means of survival, he set out to find a new apple variety altogether, focusing on taste and texture instead of price and color. The search led him to the University of Minnesota's Horticulture Research Center in Excelsior, where he found apple breeder David Bedford and what would become known as the Honeycrisp, then simply called Test Variety 1711.

"We needed a breakaway strategy and the Honeycrisp was gonna be it," Courtier says now. He liked the variety so much, he planted 10,000 trees. "The thing took off like a rocket, and we've been hanging on tight ever since."

Despite the success of the Honeycrisp, the two men are still hoping to develop an even better apple. For Bedford, that involves tasting about 500 apple varieties per day.

"This is not so bad, but we need better," he said of one freshly-picked apple, adding, "this one is going to have to go."


Josh Rosenthal

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