Cosmic Crisp apples coming soon

Tri-City Herald Staff WriterMay 21, 2014 

The small, light flecks on the Cosmic Crisp’s skin, known as lenticels, helped inspire the name of the new variety developed by Washington State University researchers specifically for Eastern Washington conditions.

WSU

A new apple variety bred specifically for Eastern Washington growing conditions finally has a name consumers can watch for — Cosmic Crisp.

The sweet, juicy apple developed by Washington State University researchers is something that may favorably compete with Honeycrisp apples.

The name, announced Wednesday, refers to the yellow starbursts lighting up the burgundy red skin of the apple and the crisp texture it shares with Honeycrisp apples, one of its parents.

Everyone has different tastes, so it won’t be an apple everyone loves, said Jim McFerson, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission manager. But it will have a wide appeal and grows and stores well, he said.

“Without a doubt it is as good as or better than anything that is out there,” he said. “We have no doubt the quality of apple is unsurpassed.” The name Cosmic Crisp was chosen after an extensive process involving input from focus groups and shoppers. Researchers had referred to the fruit as WA 38, but needed something with more pizzazz before trying to market it to consumers.

“One of the striking things about the apple is that it’s got lenticels, little spots that look like starbursts,” said Carolyn Ross, associate professor in the WSU School of Food Science, who led the search for a worthy name. “So people were interested in pursuing names related to outer space and the cosmos.”

Consumers won’t find many Cosmic Crisp apples until at least 2019 because WSU still is in the process of making the apple commercially available. Researchers are working with Northwest Nursery Improvement Institute-affiliated nurseries to grow enough trees for Washington orchardists to grow Cosmic Crisps.

More than 260 applications have already been submitted to WSU for the first chance at growing the new variety in 2017. Applications are accepted until May 31, with a drawing planned in June.

McFerson knew interest would be high for the apple, which is something growers and shippers have bought into and invested in as part of WSU’s breeding program, he said.

Growers have had a chance to see Cosmic Crisp trees in the field and the apples just out of storage, he said. Consumer testing also helps them know how it will compete with varieties currently on the market.

The university cross-bred the new apple in 1997. Researchers have been working ever since to select and test it in Eastern Washington’s commercial growing areas and make sure it is a match for what consumers want.

Its appearance comes from Enterprise, an apple bred in Illinois to be resistant to diseases.

Now Washington growers will have access to an apple bred in Washington specifically for the local conditions, McFerson said. Cosmic Crisp trees are easier to grow than the Honeycrisp, and the variety seems to thrive with Eastern Washington’s long days. It gets very little sunburn and needs less spraying.

In comparison, Honeycrisp trees are susceptible to many disease and nutrient disorders, as well as sunburn, he said. Washington farmers are lucky to get 50 percent of Honeycrisp apples to the packing shed and the consumer.

“This is just the start,” McFerson said.

Other apples, cherries and rootstocks are under development to help give Washington growers the genetic technology needed to compete globally, he said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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