Minnesotans don't have to wait until early fall for the crisp, juicy apples our state is known for growing. Early season apple varieties such as First Kiss®, SweeTango®, Zestar!® and RiverBelle are already available at orchards, grocery stores and farmers markets across Minnesota. These varieties are ripe for the picking up to four weeks sooner than Minnesota's most famous apple, Honeycrisp, marking the first fresh, local apples since last year's crop.
The tradition of picking apples at local orchards is one many look forward to each year, and growers are expecting great turnouts this fall. Although some parts of Minnesota were faced with lingering drought conditions that carried forward from 2021, local apple growers have been irrigating trees as needed and are looking for an excellent harvest.
In addition to being available at orchards, Minnesota Grown apples are available at grocery stores and farmers markets – and the Minnesota State Fair. Those planning a trip to the Great Minnesota Get-Together can stop by the Ag/Horticulture Building to grab their "First Kiss" of the season.
Keep your eyes peeled for local apples including the four varieties below, which are typically available from mid-August through early-September:
First Kiss® – The newest University of Minnesota (UMN) early season variety is a Honeycrisp cross available up to four weeks before Honeycrisp ripens. It's an incredibly crisp, lightly tart, and aromatic apple. Excellent storage life of up to five months.
Zestar!® – This apple is typically the second early season apple to ripen, and offers a delicate crispness, juicy texture, and zesty flavor with a hint of brown sugar. Developed by UMN and introduced in 1999, this apple has a crisp texture and good storage life – up to two months in the refrigerator.
SweeTango® – A Honeycrisp-Zestar! cross, this apple is known for its sweet and tart flavor. Developed by UMNand first available in 2009, SweeTango apples have explosive flavor, crisp texture, and juiciness in every bite.
RiverBelle – A sweet and tart apple with a fruity flavor makes a crisp eating apple. RiverBelle apples grow in the Mississippi River valley of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This unique, orange-flecked apple, was developed by Doug Shefelbine in collaboration with the Mississippi Valley Fruit Co.
In addition to their earlier harvest dates, these varieties provide a vastly superior eating experience in comparison to traditional early season varieties suitable for Minnesota's climate.
"For the first time since last fall, Minnesotans can enjoy local apples that are not only early to ripen, but also crisp, juicy and delicious," said Paul Hugunin, Director of Ag Marketing and Development at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Minnesota Grown program. "These early season apples are some of the best tasting apples around, providing a win-win for consumers, as well as growers and grocers."
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