Our Minnesota State Apple, the Honeycrisp

Nature Notes, by Jim Gilbert

Every few years scientists at the University of Minnesota release a new fruit variety for northern gardens.
While they are always good, sometimes an introduction is spectacular. Such was the case of the Honeycrisp apple released in 1991.
Honeycrisp apple trees have been sold in local nurseries and garden centers and grown in commercial Minnesota orchards since then, so each year more apples are available.
Yet the demand for this apple remains much greater than the supply. It’s a mid-season cultivar recommended for both commercial and home garden production. The trees have demonstrated good hardiness under normal winter conditions in east central Minnesota. Honeycrisp’s sweet taste and vibrant red color are among the traits that made it popular.
In fact, Minnesotans adore Honeycrisp apples, and this cultivar has been our official state apple since 2006. Called “explosively” crisp, Honeycrisp apples have a pleasant balance of sweetness and tartness, a mildly aromatic flavor, and juicy texture. The fruit has shown excellent storage characteristics. The outstanding flavor and texture can be maintained for at least six months in refrigerated storage.
The Honeycrisp itself resulted from a cross between Macoun and Honeygold in 1960, and has been evaluated since that time for its performance. The normal harvest season ranges from Sept. 15 to Oct. 10. This year, because of the early spring the harvest season was also early, starting in the first week of September, and most all were picked by Sept. 21.

What’s happening outdoors now?
Cedar waxwings and American robins feed on ripe mountain ash and crabapple fruit. The combining of both corn and soybeans is in full swing. Apple growers harvest Cortland, Haralson and other varieties. Fall Gold and Fall Red raspberries continue to ripen.
The harvest full Moon is this coming Saturday, Sept. 29. White-tailed deer have changed to their gray-brown winter coats. Muskrats build their mounded shelters in permanent ponds. The grand finale of the growing season is upon us with the color-splashed landscape. Virginia creeper vines and roadside sumac shrubs exhibit quite a bit of red foliage. Eastern cottonwood, hackberry and green ash trees have leaves that are in the yellows to golden-yellows.

On Sept. 27 a year ago
We had a mostly cloudy day with a low temperature of 58 and a high of 67 degrees F.
Fields of common milkweed had many pods open and shedding seeds on silver-white parachutes. Garden roses, dahlias, and annual flowers such as petunias, snapdragons and zinnias were very showy.

Jim Gilbert to appear at Arboretum Sept. 29-30

Jim Gilbert, noted Minnesota field biologist, will discuss and share images from his newest book, “Minnesota’s Outdoor Wonders” (Nodin Press; $19.95) during an author talk from 1 to 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Oswald Visitor Center of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. A book-signing will follow at 2:30 p.m. on both days in the Arboretum Gift Store.
The book is an exploration of the wonders of Minnesota — month by month. The book was written primarily at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. It is available for purchase at the Arboretum Gift Store and area bookstores for $19.95. To register for the talk, contact (952) 443-1422 or visit www.arboretum.umn.edu/learn.aspx.
“Minnesota’s Outdoor Wonders” is a month-by-month tour of the seasons, emphasizing marvels that surround us at every turn of the Earth’s yearly cycle – from the crunch of the ice break-up, to the croaks of summer frogs, the call of the loon and the autumn splendor of maples.

Arboretum info
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest, is part of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and is located nine miles west of I-494 on Highway 5 in Chanhassen.
Open 363 days a year, admission for the Arboretum is $12 for adults and ages 13 & older, free for ages 12 and younger and always free for members.