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What is a Honeycrisp Apple?

Honeycrisp apple are speckled red with green-gold patches.
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  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
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The honeycrisp apple is a late-season apple grown in many parts of the world that is praised for its consistently crunchy, sweet texture. Though common today in most markets, the honeycrisp is a relatively new variety. It is a cultivar, which means that it is the product of intentional cross-breeding, and it did not become commercially available until the 1990s.

Growing Season and Availability

In most climates, honeycrisps are what is known as “late season” apples. Prime growing season for most apples in the Western Hemisphere is from mid-September to late October, which is usually right at the start of the fall season. Honeycrisps are typically not ripe enough to pick until the first week of November, and can be in season up until — and sometimes just past — the first frost.

The first farmers to cultivate honeycrisps patented the process, which made it very difficult for other growers to get access to seedlings or established crops. Although the patent expired in 2008, the number of farmers growing honeycrisp apples is nevertheless somewhat small when compared to other varieties. In part this is because of the shorter, later season, but also because of the care and attention trees need in order to produce the very best apples. Honeycrisps typically command a higher price than other varieties as a result.

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Cultivar History

Honeycrisp apples are a cross between the Honeygold and the Macoun, two varieties commonly grown in the Northern Midwestern portion of the United States. The honeygold is itself also a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Haralson apple, which in a sense means that the honeycrisp is in fact a unique blend of three different apple varieties.

The first honeycrisps were developed as a part of a sponsored Minnesota apple breeding program. According to most accounts, the first edible cultivars were produced beginning around 1960, but the variety was not introduced to mainstream commercial markets until nearly 30 years later.

Natural Breeding, Not Genetic Modification

Honeycrisp apples are bred and grown through cross-pollination, which is widely regarded as an all-natural process. As such, honeycrisps are not an example of genetic modification. Modern food production often features elements of genetic modification, in which scientists alter the genome of foods in order for them to express certain desirable characteristics.

Just the same, growing a perfect honeycrisp often takes a bit of work. Cross-breeding the Honeygold and Macoun apples usually starts with a pollen transfer between the blooms on each of the trees. This can be done through bees and birds, though larger operations that are counting on precise crop outcomes often elect to do the cross-pollination manually.

Worldwide Growth and Climate Adaptability

Most of the honeycrisp apples grown in the United States are from the Midwestern region, though the cultivar has proved itself adaptable to many different climates. The apple-growing regions of the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest have seen great success with the honeycrisp, as have parts of New Zealand and Northern Europe. Even some desert-climate growers have met with good results.

Common Uses

Honeycrisps are a very adaptable apple. Many people eat them on their own as a snack, either chilled or at room temperature. They also make good additions to salads and cereals, and tend to keep their color longer than many other varieties once cut.

Baking with honeycrisps is also very often successful. Though baking necessarily takes away some of the apple's crunch and bite, honeycrisps are well known for keeping their shape and general consistency, even when exposed to high heats. They are often used in pies, cobblers, and other desserts, and can also be used as an accompaniment to more savory dishes like poultry.

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Discuss this Article

anon348461
Post 27

The absolute best apple ever. Cannot wait for them to harvest this year's crop.

anon346209
Post 26

Best apples ever. Just waiting until the stores get some.

Doesn't compare to any other apple.

anon324027
Post 25

Jonathan apples used to be my favorite, but their season seems so short that I could miss them at my So. Cal. markets. Honeycrisp carries a lot of the same features as a Jonathan, but are perhaps sweeter.

anon300255
Post 23

@Post 10: Try to find some Organic Honeycrisp, they will be much higher in quality. Plus, you don't get all those pesticides and chemicals! They will cost you more though, but are worth it in my opinion.

anon299833
Post 22

I grow up in Washington State. My Grandmother packed apples in Wenachtee many years ago where they grow many different varieties of apples. I love apples and have tried many different varieties in my day.

I tried the Honey Crisp apple yesterday for the first time. I gave it one more shot today. I agree with post 5. It is the worst tasting apple I have ever tried to eat. I could not finish either one. If you want a spoiled liquor taste with the sore of lemon at first bite, this is your apple. But I prefer a Pink Lady to this any day. The only thing the Honey Crisp apple might be good for is baking, but at their high cost in the supermarket, I'll stick with Granny Smiths for my pies.

anon246176
Post 19

Re: Post #18. "Too good to be true." Tricky phrasing, that. Yes, these apples were "invented" by scientists. No, they are not a "Genetically Modified" food.

True, you don't actually say that they are, but the placement of those three sentences in that order could lead a reader to believe Honeycrisp is a genetically modified item. It is not.

anon240681
Post 18

Too good to be true. These apples were invented by scientists. Genetically Modified Food products are what is getting people sick with cancer etc., yet somehow these honeycrisp apples are certified organic. This is scary. The apples taste way too good to be true and I think the long term implications of consuming this modified apple are completely unknown.

Has anyone ever done any composition tests of this apple to see exactly what is inside of it compared to normal apples that have been around for centuries?

anon220441
Post 17

Honeycrisp is absolutely the best apple ever! I used to feel that way about Granny Smith until I tried Honeycrisp. Perfect ratio of sweetness, juiciness and crispiness. Yummy! When they are in season I eat one a day (I actually just finished one). I love them chopped with vanilla yogurt and granola; I never get tired of them. I wish they were in season year round!

anon169764
Post 15

love, love these apples, not too sweet like fuji or gala, and oh so crisp, the juice flows on the first bite!

anon157344
Post 14

Absolutely, positively the best apple in the world! Perfect taste, perfect crispness, perfect apple! I'm very sad (and a little desperate) when they are not in season. What #5 had was not a Honeycrisp! --TW74

anon150771
Post 13

Take out the "possibly." Honeycrisp is the best apple on the market. I eat two a day when I can get them and have to force myself to stop there. I keep hoping that we'll be able to soon get them year-round. I think I have a Honeycrisp addiction but figure it could be worse.

anon130718
Post 12

Reader #5 has more than likely been a chronic cigar smoker for most of his / her life, therefore killing all taste buds and sense of smell. this is the absolutely best apple ever! I first tried them in Miami Beach with a good friend of mine in October. Granny Smith just took a backseat to these babies! I’ve yet to find them at any store in So-Cal, but will follow another reader’s advice and look for them on my next trip to Costco.

anon122632
Post 11

Honeycrisp apples are the best apples in the world. Period.

anon120631
Post 10

I too was not much of a apple eater until I tried a Honeycrisp about a month ago. Oh my gosh! Best apple on the planet. It's now late October and I live in Oklahoma. I just bought some Honeycrisp @$2.59 per pound at my local grocery store and they barely have any flavor and very mushy. Does that happen to a Honeycrisp?

anon107767
Post 9

Without a doubt, I vote for the honeycrisp as the best apple I've ever tasted. My first one was bought at a farmers market in Sandpoint, Idaho year before last. Found them in a local grocery store in my home state of Florida that same year. Can't wait until they are in the markets again.

anon86989
Post 8

The patent expired this year on Honeycrisp, and so they may be more widely available. Contrary to popular wisdom, they do fine in hot climates like Inland Southern California and are not bothered by 100+ temps or lack of winter chill.

If you've had sour ones from the store it's because they were picked green; the ones picked from my Southern California front yard are the best I've ever tasted.

anon72515
Post 7

I found some Organic Honeycrisp apples last fall at my local organic grocer. I have never really liked apples all that much, but the Honeycrisp converted me! By far the best tasting apple I have ever had. I just wish I didn't have to wait until the fall to finally have them again!

anon58073
Post 6

Writer number 5 needs to get new tastebuds. Honeycrisp is the best apple ever. Everyone I introduce to them tells me they are ruined for life regarding any other apple. I used to like fuji and granny smiths. Now no other apple is as crisp, as juicy or as perfectly sweet as honeycrisp. They are better when smaller and when organic.

anon56549
Post 5

This apple is the worst apple I've ever tasted. Once I was able to chaw through the tough, thick skin, I got to the most tart thing I've ever tasted, next to a lemon. It hurt my tongue! It tasted acidic, almost fizzy like a can of pop. I'll be throwing the rest out.

anon49469
Post 4

honeycrisp apples are for sure the best apples on the market. not only are they literally the most delicious taste ever, it is a fruit intended for the gods. i love me some honeycrisp goodness. if you've not yet tried one, do so today.

anon47013
Post 3

The best apple on the planet. they are more economical to buy at a Costco Club.

anon45403
Post 2

Just had one this morning for the first time. I am now hooked. Also *very* glad to hear (from various web sources) that is is not a GMO but a regular old cross-breed apple! It's terrible what has been done to the "Red Delicious", which only meets half of it's current name these days.

elfi64
Post 1

Possibly one of the best apples on the market. Sweet and tart, juicy and crispy, really a perfect apple. Honeycrisp is not only delicious when eaten fresh from hand, but the apples are delicious in pies or any other recipe.

In apple orchards, honeycrisp apples tend to grow abundantly and in large bunches. To protect the trees from heavy weight, and to produce a better colored apples, some thinning has to take place. I suppose not the worst problem to have.

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