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September 13, 2009

Why you may not be able to try the new SweeTango apple


At the farmers market today I asked my apple guru Dave Reid what he knew about SweeTango. This is the apple variety that's getting a lot of press  as the successor to the phenomenal (in terms of popularity and taste) Honeycrisp.

The SweeTango was developed by the University of Minnesota.

Dave said he wouldn't be growing them anytime soon and told me about the "club variety" concept, something I hadn't known about. To plant certain varieties, growers have to join a club, which is where the name comes from.

After the unexpected success of the Pink Lady apple, Dave told me, brand owners started controlling some new varieties to prevent overplanting. Not everyone can join the club, and it can be expensive to do so.

The growers have to agree to various terms, and marketing is done by the corporation. Financially, it isn't feasible for many small growers to plant club varieties.

What this does for us, the apple eaters, is keep the price of the new variety from falling. ...

I guess from what Dave said if you want to try SweeTango, you'll have to wait until it shows up in your supermarket; but I could be wrong. Let me know if you see it anywhere.

It's always interested me anyway that there are so many varieties of apples for sale, and we all know the names of a lot of them. Can you name one variety of, say, peach? I always ask what peach variety I'm buying at the farmers market, and every couple of weeks it changes. But I never can remember the next season which ones I particularly like.

Maybe next week I'll ask Dave whether all those apple varieties really sell. I guess they do, or he wouldn't bring them to market. But I never see anyone buying anything but Honeycrisps, Gala and Fuji, plus some of the very old varieties for the sake of nostalgia.

I did hear an amazing thing this morning: Someone asked Dave for a Red Delicious. Why not just go to your local Giant.

(AP Photo of the SweeTango/Steve Karnowski)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:25 AM | | Comments (15)


Peach varieties? White and, uh, yellow.

I like freestone peaches

Peaches - Hale Haven, thank you. But the apples I really look forward to are Stayman Winesaps. Getting harder and harder to find - I have my dependable source, but I'm not telling.

Does anyone know the name of the giant sort of rippled skinned apples? They are very pink in color and quite massive. I tried them last year and fell in love. I saw someone carrying two of them at the market this morning but I didn't see any others.

Actually, fresh Red Delicious---right off an actual tree, not in a plastic bag--are exactly that: delicious. I once lived next door to a small private orchard and my neighbor was quite generous with his apples. The red delicious were surprisingly sweet and wonderfully crisp. No resemblance to the pasty, mealy, over-bred, tasteless travesties at supermarkets. Those poseurs should be banned!
Oh, and apple varieties? Reid's has spoiled me with their Mutsus, Crispins, sheeps-noses (on rare occasions), Yorks, and the humongoid Mountaineers. Dave & Kathy Reid and crew deserve a medal for the outrageously wonderful fruit they grow and share with us.

The apple variety I like best is the "Spy" apple. Tart. Firm. And wonderful for cooking.

Spies are a great pie apple, although I like them for eating out of hand, too.

I'm allergic to branding and all the crap, like clubs, that goes with it. So, I haven't had a honeycrisp, and don't plan on having one any time soon. Ditto for SweeTangoes. There is enough really tasty fruit out there that isn't evil.

There is a variety of peaches named for my DW's family: The Edwards Peach. Can't say I have ever seen or tasted one, but she grew up in Northern California where peaches were and are still a major crop. When we were out there a week or so ago there were large trailers piled high with 3'-square cases of peaches rolling through town heading for wherever they pack and ship them.

Weber's Farm up in the Parkville area puts out a calendar of what peaches are being picked when, so you can always tell which variety is which. Same for apples.

Favorite peach variety = Summer Snow...I am sort of obsessed with white peaches.

Honeycrisps from Reid's are superawesome. They hold their shape so nicely when cooked!

Just tried the SweeTango this weekend. I live in Wisconsin, and the only place in the entire state that sells it is Woods Orchard in Door County. It is DELICIOUS. The best apple I've eaten in a long, long time.

My favorite peach variety?
Del Monte

EL, Weber's Cider Mill Farm posts a list of the peach varieties they grow and when each comes in. Each variety seems to last 7-10 days, then -- BOOM -- it's gone. This year's crop is finished, by the way. I suppose you could find the list on their website, but I've never looked.

Weber's grows many apple varieties. Supermarkets seem to carry only Red and Golden Delicious, Gala, Jonathan, and maybe Honeycrisp. Yawn!

City Redux, if you're anywhere near Parkville, Weber's grows Stayman Winesaps.

I know I "shill" Weber's often and "loudly," but they do have SUCH nice produce, baked goods, and jams/jellies.

I was in Minnesota to greet a new grandchild and drove nearly 200 miles rountdrip to Pepin Heights Orchard to buy SweeTango at $2.99/lb. Very inconsistent apple. Some extraordinarily delicious, others so tart as to leave a permanent pucker. Don't know if some weren't ripe or what the problem is. Orchard would not respond to my emails. After long drive and buying about 10 lbs at premium price, very disappointed. However, Lake City, MN is beautiful.

Thanks for the review. EL

"Does anyone know the name of the giant sort of rippled skinned apples? They are very pink in color and quite massive. I tried them last year and fell in love. I saw someone carrying two of them at the market this morning but I didn't see any others. "

It could be Mutsu or Wolf River. Those two are HUGE apples!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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