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Honeycrisp Apples

Crunch. 

Nothing makes that sound better than a ripe Honeycrisp apple.  Bursting with juice and zest, that first bite will never disappoint you.  Whether you’re looking for an apple for eating fresh, baking in an pie or cake, or growing in your own orchard, Honeycrisps are a great choice.  Here you’ll find details on everything Honeycrisp.

Where Honeycrisp Apples Come From

Honeycrisp apples were first developed at the University of Minnesota in 1974 and were first released to the public in 1991. For many years people thought that the Honeycrisp apple was a cross between the Macoun and the Honeygold apple varieties. 

However, in 2004, a group of scientists used DNA to prove that the ancestors of the Honeycrisp apple were actually the Keepsake and an unreleased variety known as MN 1627. Both of these were also developed at the University of Minnesota. 

The Honeycrisp apple posed many problems for apple growers. Susceptibility to diseases, biennal production, and heat intolerance all made the Honeycrisp seem unpromising.  Understandably, it took awhile for the general public to catch on to this amazing apple. But once people noticed the Honeycrisp’s spectacular crunch, balanced sweetness and acidity, and incredible juiciness, it became an instant hit. Today, the Honeycrisp is the fifth most commonly grown apple in America. 

What Honeycrisp Apples Look and Taste Like

Boy Eating Honeycrisp Apple

Honeycrisps have thin skins dotted with tiny openings called lenticels that help air flow in and out of the apple.  If grown in good sunlight, the Honeycrisp develops a beautiful pink blush on a light green or yellow background.  

Honeycrisp apples are best known for their incredible crunchiness. This is because Honeycrisps have extra large cells.  When you bite through a fresh Honeycrisp, you are breaking through thousands of microscopic, juice-packed sacs.  

As the name implies, Honeycrisps have a well-balanced sweetness that is unmatched in all of appledom. Like Fuji apples, they are loaded with sugar. Brix is the term used for measuring sweetness in an apple. The Honeycrisp has a 12.6 Brix level, meaning that sugar makes up 12.6% of the juice in Honeycrisp apples. Honeycrisps have some slight acidity to balance their sweetness, and their explosive crunchiness makes them similar to Pink Lady apples.

How to Use Honeycrisp Apples

Apple Pie on Wooden Table

One of the great things about Honeycrisp apples is that they keep their explosive crunchiness and aromatic texture very well through long storage–even up to seven months!  They also maintain their sweetness through the cooking process.  These two factors make the Honeycrisp the ideal apple for general use in the kitchen or at the dinner table.

Raw Honeycrisps are a classic snack. The skins of Honeycrisps are extra thin, so they don’t pose a problem for snacking. In fact, the skin contains essential nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin C.  With their incredible crunchiness, Honeycrisps are a perfect addition to salads.  Try putting sliced and diced Honeycrisps into your next coleslaw. 

You can never go wrong by adding Honeycrisps to your baking and cooking. Keeping the skins on can add interesting color and texture to your pie or cake, but removing the skins helps the filling or dough to meld together. This 3-in-1 peeler/slicer/corer will come in very handy. Try making this apple sauce and relish the chunky delightfulness of simmered Honeycrisps.  Or check out this recipe for homemade Honeycrisp apple jam.  And if you’re ready for a smooth, sweet spread for your pancakes, throw Honeycrisps into the slow cooker and make this delicious apple butter.

If you’re into baking, check out these recipes for Honeycrisp baked goods.

  • Homemade Honeycrisp apple crisp – This classic fall treat, chock full of nutty sweetness, only takes about an hour to make!  Nuts like sliced almonds, chopped walnuts and pecan halves are delicious options for extra crunch.  Don’t forget to top this apple crisp off with vanilla ice cream and fresh cranberry sauce!
  • Honeycrisp apple pie – Apple pie is the classic American autumn dessert, and you can never go wrong with using Honeycrisps as the main ingredient.  Top it with whipped cream or–if you’re daring–sharp cheddar cheese!
  •  Honeycrisp apple cake – Want a slightly different fall dessert?  Then you better check out this tantalizing apple cake. Add cinnamon or honey butter for flavorful twists to this delicious cake.

Where to Get Honeycrisp Apples

Honeycrisp Apple Trees in Apple Orchard

Honeycrisps are one of the top five best-selling apple varieties in the country, so they are available pretty much anywhere.  However, Honeycrisps grow best in cooler climates, so if you live in a warm state like California, they will probably be shipped to your area. 

They will be freshest in states such as Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, New England, and Upstate New York. Whether they are shipped or picked fresh, your local grocery store is likely to carry this extremely popular variety.  If you can’t find them locally, you can always order them online.

Remember, Honeycrisps keep their flavor and crunchiness really well through storage.  They can stay delicious for up to seven months in storage without needing special equipment for regulating air inside storage spaces. 

However, if you’re looking to use the freshest Honeycrisp apples, you should try out farmer’s markets or orchards near you.  Check out the following if any are near you:

  • Apple Ridge Orchards – This orchard in New York State specializes in apples such as Honeycrisps as well as pumpkins and peaches. With animal feeding activities, honeybee hives, and a loaded farm stand with fresh cider, donuts,and jellies, your Honeycrisp-picking experience will be one you won’t forget. 
  • Aamodts’ Apple Farm – Located in the Honeycrisp home state of Minnesota, Aamodt’s has apple varieties that produce in summer, fall, or winter.  Their summer apples include SweeTango, Zestar, and Duchess, while Honeycrisps, McIntosh, and Gala are among their popular fall varieties. 
  • The Farm at Swan’s Trail in Snohomish – Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Washington State, this orchard is the perfect spot for a fun family outing. Here you can make your Honeycrisp excursion much more exciting with activities like these:
    • Watch ducks race
    • Explore a maze based on the geography of the state of Washington
    • Ride on a cow train
    • Enjoy a show with trained pigs

How to Grow Honeycrisps

Honeycrisps grow well in cooler climates. They flourish throughout US growing zones 3-7. They are labeled as cold hardy, meaning they can withstand quite low temperatures–around -40 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they do benefit from mild winters.  States where Honeycrisps grow best include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the upper regions of New York State.

Plant the trees in full sunlight in well-drained soil that has a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.  If you would like regular-sized trees (between 12-15 feet high), there should be about 15-18 feet of space between trees.  Dwarf trees (between 8-10 feet high) need less space–about 6 to 8 feet between trees.  

Avoid low-lying areas, as cold air may settle in these areas and create harmful “frost pockets.” Spring is generally the best time to plant apple trees, especially in cold climates. If the winters are less severe in your area, you may consider planting in either late fall or early spring.  

Like Galas and Fujis, Honeycrisps need a cross pollinator to produce fruit. For this reason, it works best to plant more than one Honeycrisp tree in your space.  Otherwise, make sure that another apple variety (it hardly matters which) is planted near your tree to ensure that pollen is transferred between trees.  

The Honeycrisp may be a difficult apple to cultivate.  It is resistant to apple scab but is prone to other diseases such as black rot, mildew, and fire blight. In warmer climates, heat and sunburn can damage Honeycrisps as well.  Also, the wood is quite brittle and can break from winds or simply from the weight of fruit.  To cope with such challenges, use pesticides and fungicides properly and add supports to weaker branches.  It always helps to prune out infected parts of the tree. 

Fun Facts About Honeycrisp Apples

  • The Honeycrisp apple has become popular all over the world.  In Europe, the Honeycrisp is actually called the “Honeycrunch.”
  • Many famous apple varieties came from the Honeycrisp.  For example, have you ever bitten into a SweeTango apple and been surprised by the perfectly tart but still perfectly sweet crunch?  If you have, you’ve tasted a daughter variety of Honeycrisp!  The University of Minnesota–long known for innovation in developing new varieties–crossed two of their creations, the Honeycrisp and the Zestar, to create the SweeTango.
  • If you’re from Minnesota, then Honeycrisps are your apples.  In 2006, the Honeycrisp was named the state fruit of Minnesota, and even today it remains the most popular apple variety grown in the state.

The Honeycrisp is a classic apple for snacking and cooking.  Its crunch, sweetness, and juiciness is unmatched.  Next time you’re in the mood for a delicious fruit, the Honeycrisp should be an easy first choice.

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