SAINT PAUL, Minn. — As Minnesotans look for fun outdoor activities heading into the last days of summer, they need not look any further than visiting their local apple orchards and picking their own Minnesota Grown apples. The state’s apple season kicks-off in August as local growers, who have been working hard to produce juicy, tasty apples that ripen – and are available at local grocery stores, farmers markets and orchards – up to four weeks sooner than Minnesota’s most famous apple, Honeycrisp.
Apple picking at local orchards is a Minnesota tradition that is not canceled this year. Visiting orchards is an outdoor activity that allows for social distancing, and orchards and farms have put safety procedures in place, including hand washing stations, touchless payments, mask wearing and more. Many apple orchards also produce “U-Pick” berries and have had their new safety measures in place for weeks.
The star of the show is the newest early season variety, First Kiss, and this year, it will be more widely available as growers have more trees that have matured and are producing this delightful fruit. They will still sell out quickly, so apple lovers will want to make their plans to get their hands on these incredibly crisp, lightly tart and aromatic apples beginning in mid-August. Other beloved early season varieties include SweeTango®, Zestar!® and RiverBelle, which are all available around late-August through September. These are the first fresh, local apples available since last fall’s crop.
This August keep your eyes peeled for local apples including:
First Kiss – The newest University of Minnesota (U of M) early season variety is a Honeycrisp cross available up to four weeks before Honeycrisp ripens. It’s an incredibly crisp, lightly tart and aromatic apple. Excellent storage life of up to five months.
SweeTango – A Honeycrisp-Zestar! cross, this apple is known for its sweet and tart flavor. Developed by the U of M and first available in 2009, SweeTango apples have explosive flavor, crisp texture and juiciness in every bite.
Zestar! – This apple offers its delicate crispness, juicy texture and zesty flavor with a hint of brown sugar. Developed by the U of M and introduced in 1999, this apple has a crisp texture and good storage life – up to two months in the refrigerator.
RiverBelle – A sweet and tart apple with a fruity flavor makes a crisp eating apple. RiverBelle apples grow in the Mississippi River valley of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This unique, orange-flecked apple, was developed by Doug Shefelbine in collaboration with the Mississippi Valley Fruit Co.
In addition to their earlier harvest dates, these varieties provide a vastly superior eating experience in comparison to traditional early season varieties suitable for Minnesota’s climate.
“While Minnesotans typically think of local apples being harvested after Labor Day, we now can enjoy delicious apples – that will stand up to any of our best varieties – beginning in mid-August,” said Paul Hugunin, Director of Ag Marketing and Development at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown program. “Early season apples provide an exciting opportunity for consumers to choose local, fresh produce for an extra month each year.”
For over 30 years, Minnesota Grown has helped connect customers with local farmers. The Minnesota Grown Directory includes more than 100 orchards around the state. Find an orchard near you at www.minnesotagrown.com. Order your free copy of the printed Minnesota Grown Directory by calling 1-800-657-3878 or by going online to www.minnesotagrown.com/order. You’ll also find the Minnesota Grown logo at grocery stores and farmers markets.
ABOUT MINNESOTA GROWN
The Minnesota Grown Program is a statewide partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota producers of specialty crops and livestock. For over 30 years, the program has created consumer awareness of Minnesota Grown products, increased demand for Minnesota Grown products and connected buyers and sellers. Participants in the program are a diverse group of farmers and processors, including farmers markets, nurseries and garden centers, apple orchards, berry farms, Christmas tree farms, honey producers, maple syrup producers, livestock producers, wineries, and CSA farms (community supported agriculture). For more information, visit MinnesotaGrown.com.