Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

September 28, 2013

Looking for perfection in apples

GENEVA, N.Y. (AP) — Trees at Cornell University’s research orchard this fall are heavy with waxy apples, deep-red, round apples, oblong apples and aromatic apples that smell like autumn.

The thousands of trees here are tended for a single goal: to grow apples with just the right mix of sweetness, tart and crunch.

The orchards, part of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, are essentially a 50-acre lab devoted to developing apples that are tasty for consumers and hardy for farmers. The station has released 66 apple varieties over more than a century including Cortland, Macoun and two new entries at farm markets this fall: SnapDragon and RubyFrost.

“I could never be a medical doctor; I don’t like blood. But I can create,” breeder Susan Brown said. “I can manipulate things and create stuff that no one else has seen or tasted, and sometimes it’s a home run and sometimes it’s a spitter.”

Brown, a Cornell professor of agriculture who has been breeding apples since 1990, walked through the apple-dappled rows on a sunny day this week offering test chomps. One apple was juicy but mushy, another exceptionally firm and crisp.

“You would not want to eat this with dentures,” she said with a laugh.

Brown’s team is looking for crisp apples with a good balance of sugar and acid.

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