Meet the Cosmic Crisp -- a new hybrid apple 22 years in the making
It’s an apple launch that’s out of this world.
No, it’s not the latest iPhone -- the landmark product going on sale beginning Sunday is the Cosmic Crisp, a speckled hybrid apple that’s been in the making since 1997.
Step aside, Red Delicious, Gala and Pink Lady. The Cosmic Crisp is being advertised as crisper, juicier and longer-lasting than any other apple on the market.
It’s the uber-apple of creator Bruce Barritt’s dreams -- and it took over two decades for the Canadian horticulturist to bring it to fruition.
“It began 22 years ago, when we felt that the current apples on sale were not the kind of quality consumers really wanted,” Barritt told CTV News.
Through Washington State University’s apple breeding program, Barritt led a team of scientists on the search for the perfect combination of apple varieties.
Tens of thousands of varieties were created in the pursuit of the perfect apple -- a fruit that would be crispy, yet sweet, yet long-lasting, and equally able to be enjoyed fresh or used as an ingredient in recipes.
Researchers found the sweet spot when they cross-pollinated the Enterprise, an apple known for its shelf life and hardiness, with the Honeycrisp, which brought the flavour punch that the Cosmic Crisp would need. The result of this cross-pollination was WA 38, the code for the apple that would later become the Cosmic Crisp.
The name “Cosmic Crisp,” was chosen in focus groups by consumers who were struck by the light spots on the otherwise dark burgundy-red fruit. According to Cosmic Crisp’s website, the appearance “reminded the tasters of outer space and the cosmos.”
So what makes the perfect apple? Barritt said that what people tend to care about the most is taste and texture. And both are more complex than one would think at first.
“Texture’s the most important – that’s firmness, crispness, and juiciness,” he explained. “Firmness is when you bite down, how hard it is. You don’t want it too hard, but you don’t want it soft. Crispness is how it cracks when you bite into it, and of course, we know what juiciness is. Juiciness … makes the mouth-feel a lot better.”
The Cosmic Crisp takes the “crisp” in its name from its parent, Honeycrisp, but according to Barritt, the moniker is apt.
“When you bite into this apple, you will hear a cracking sound,” he said.
In terms of flavour, most apple varieties tend to either be sweet or tart, Barritt said.
“This one is a beautiful balance of both sweet and tart.”
But one of the main reasons the Cosmic Crisp is expected to outperform other apples that ripen at a similar time in late September -- such as the Red Delicious -- is how long it can stay fresh.
“It’s beautiful on the outside, but it’s also beautiful on the inside, because the white colour does not go brown -- or it goes brown, but very, very slowly,” Barritt said.
The Cosmic Crisp is higher in both sugar and acidity, which helps with shelf life. If the fruit can last longer in storage, it can not only serve as a fresh snack during off-season months, it can be a better ingredient for recipes.
“Consumers demand fruit 12 months of the year,” Barritt said. “They want apples that are good – not soft, not chewy, not dry, not flavourless. And this particular variety is probably the only one that comes out of cold storage … 10 or 12 months after it was picked (and) it’s just really good after long term storage and that’s unique.
Although it may sound like the world is getting the Ocean’s Eleven dream team of an apple, Canadians shouldn’t celebrate just yet. The apple is indeed hitting stores today -- but only in the U.S.
Barritt explained that there just aren’t enough apples yet. The apples are currently grown solely in Washington State.
“There’s only 450,000 boxes, which sounds like a lot, but it’s a small amount,” he said. “The crop of 2020 will be sold in Canada definitely.”