By T.J. BURNHAM
HEEEEEERE’S Cosmic Crisp!
Washington’s new super apple, called only by its experimental name of WA 38 until now, is being introduced by its new name by Washington State University breeders. Cosmic Crisp is touted to be one of the most memorable apples generated by the state’s prolific variety vendor.
But don’t run down to Safeway quite yet. WSU scientist Carolyn Ross says you won’t see Cosmic Crisp on the produce counters until 2019 — and in very limited numbers.
That’s because the apple was just released to growers via a lottery for trees, and it will take at least five years for the first of those plantings to bear marketable fruit.
It’s worth the wait, if WSU’s public relations about the new pome is right. It got high marks in taste tests for sweetness and tanginess, and has a long shelf life.
The name Cosmic Crisp wasn’t an easy choice, notes Carolyn Ross, the WSU School of Food Science associate professor. “It was quite a process. It think people didn’t realize how much names can influence their purchasing behavior until they started talking about them.”
The Cosmic factor was developed, she says, because of the “striking” lenticels on the apple surface. Those little spots look like starbursts to some, and she believes consumers are drawn to names relating to outer space and the cosmos.
Naming the apple involved several meetings with focus groups around the state, says Ross, with sessions in Pullman, Yakima and Seattle. Participants were presented a list of options to pick their favorite from as the new apple’s moniker.
“They liked having that little bit of information in the name so that when you are in the apple section trying to decide which apple to purchase, you have some idea of what to expect,” she explains. One of the outstanding attributes of the apple is its crispness, she notes, which is linked to one of its parent crosses, Honeycrisp, a popular Washington apple in the supermarket today. Enterprise was the other “parent” in the cross completed in 1997.
In addition to the focus groups, Proprietary Variety Management, a Yakima-based company specializing in the management of proprietary varieties, surveyed shoppers in retail locations. PVM is assisting WSU with branding, licensing and collecting of royalties on the apple.
WSU continues to work with several nurseries under the Northwest Nursery Improvement Institute umbrella, as well as with other producers to increase the number of trees available to commercial growers.
Final decisions on which growers will receive Cosmic Crisp planting stock were expected to be made by mid-June, following a May cutoff on the application process.
The WSU drawing is intended to assign the limited number of trees available to producers in Washington for 2017 planting. More than 250 applications were received before the close of the drawing.
PVM will also work with WSU and the Washington apple industry to develop a Cosmic Crisp logo for easy market identification, and to work up graphics to support the brand launch before it reaches markets.
Not only is Cosmic Crisp a market super apple, it is produced on what many consider to be grower-friendly trees, which grow upright, spreading with moderate vigor to prevent oversizing. It is precocious, meaning it will begin producing fruit at a younger age than many apple varieties, with spur development beginning on 2-year-old wood.
Fruit, ripening in late September, yields within the range of other local apples in Washington. The apple is round and conical, with a rich red-purple color over a green-yellow background.
APPLE FOR THE COSMOS: WSU’s new Cosmic Crisp apple is named for the light flecks on the skin which reminded a naming panel of stars.
This article published in the July, 2014 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.