EXCELSIOR, Minn. (WCCO) — A new breed of apple, literally decades in the making, is finally ripe for the picking.
It’s named “First Kiss” and is a child of the Honeycrisp family. Like its popular parent, the apple breed was created at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Horticultural Research Center.
David Bedford, an apple breeder and research scientist for the University of Minnesota, has a taste for perfection.
“Let’s try another one because that’s really not the best,” he says as he tosses the once-bitten fruit to the ground, in search of another worth eating. Beford has spent decades breeding the sweet treat, always hoping to find the next delicious apple to hit the market.
“It’s almost like having a big pool of lottery tickets and every now and then you get a winner,” he said.
Twenty-one years ago, it was the Honeycrisp. In the mid-2000s, it was Sweetango. Now in 2018, the long-awaited winner is First Kiss.
“This one took 21 years from the breeding to the release,” he said.
It’s bred in part from the Honeycrisp apple, which Bedford said gives the First Kiss an explosive, crisp juiciness. The other parent is an apple from Arkansas that allows it to ripen almost a month earlier than Honeycrisp.
“It also gave us some of that zingy, tart flavor,” Bedford said, comparing it somewhat to the sour taste of a Granny Smith apple.
Bedford said First Kiss trees were cloned a couple of years ago and given to growers. This season, they’re finally ready for eager apple lovers to enjoy, almost immediately after picking.
“You can’t hide the true qualities of an apple when you’re eating it out of your hand. And that’s what this was bred for,” he said.
Bedford added that First Kiss apples would make great additions to a recipe such as apple pie, but he their benchmark is to be eaten by hand like a Honeycrisp.
Bedford said First Kiss should be available at orchards, not grocery stores, by late August. They’ll also be at the Minnesota State Fair. Bedford suggest customers act fast since they’ll only be around for a couple weeks after picking.