The DeWitt-based Michigan Apple Committee lists 16 apple varieties on its availability chart, and while some of those cultivars are long-time favorites, others can be classified in the up-and-coming category.
“Growers are getting into a more healthy balance of less red delicious and more firm, long-lasting, high-end varieties,” said Denise Donohue, executive director.
“This year, we’ll have two varieties to move people beyond the red delicious.”
Donohue proudly said that, in blind taste tests comparing apples from several states, Michigan-grown Honeycrisps ranked No. 1, and the state’s jonagolds were No. 2.
“We’ll focus on those,” Donohue said, since the state’s climate is conducive to producing those varieties.
Gala, jonagold, fuji, red delicious and Honeycrisps are among the varieties that Applewood Orchards Inc., Deerfield, Mich., offers, said Scott Swindeman, vice president and sales manager. But the Honeycrisp continues to gain popularity.
“It has a unique taste all its own,” he said. “People love it.”
The Honeycrisp has made apple eaters out of people who were not necessarily fond of the fruit, he said.
Applewood Orchards also is one of a relatively small group of growers in Michigan and a handful of states and provinces offering the new SweeTango variety.
“I like the SweeTango far better than I do the Honeycrisp,” Swindeman said.
The trees are young, however, and he does not expect to see significant volume for at least a year or two.
Glei’s Inc., Hillsdale, Mich., plans to plant a special strain of the Pink Lady variety next spring, said Damon Glei, secretary-treasurer and part owner. The trees won’t produce fruit for several years, however.
Glei’s should be one of the first Michigan growers to offer the Pink Lady, he said.
The company will grow a strain that matures three weeks faster than regular Pink Ladies.
Glei Inc. also conducted a trial planting of a few blondee apples — an early, yellow apple. It should harvest in mid-August starting with limited volume next year and increasing supplies in subsequent seasons.
Several young plantings are starting to bear fruit at Jack Brown Produce Inc., Sparta, Mich., said Pat Chase, sales and field representative.
Gala, jonagold, fuji and Honeycrisp are the hottest varieties, he said, and the company also has some new strains of the mcintosh with improved color.
“Growers are constantly renewing the blocks of fruit they have, going with higher density and trying to pick the best varieties and best strains,” Chase said.
Red delicious apples remain the bestsellers at Michigan Fresh Marketing LLC, Belding, Mich., said president Tom Curtis, but galas are gaining ground every year.
“We don’t plant many red delicious trees anymore,” he said.
Though they sell many kinds of apples, grower-shippers tend to have their personal favorites.
Curtis said he likes all varieties, but the golden delicious is his favorite, followed by the jonagold because “it’s sweeter than some of the others.”
Glei’s favorite is the Honeycrisp, followed by fuji and ambrosia, which he describes as “a good-eating apple — just not very well known.”
The northern spy, a green apple with a red cheek, is “kind of ugly,” he said, but it makes good pies. The company has about 300 northern spy trees.
Swindeman said he really has no favorite apple, since his preference changes with the season.
In the fall, he picks up Honeycrisps or jonagolds, then later in the season, he’ll choose fujis.
“I love them all because I’ve got to sell them all,” he said.