Everyone loves biting into a crisp, fresh apple — particularly this time of year. Now, a new variety is available on the North Fork for residents to enjoy: the Snapdragon.
The Snapdragon was developed following the success of the Honeycrisp apple years before, according to Tom Wickham, owner of Wickham’s Fruit Farm. His Cutchogue operation is one of two local farms to grow the new variety.
“The old varieties were Macintosh, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious,” Mr. Wickham said. “All those have been overtaken by apples that are better-tasting. Thirty years ago we got Gala, Macoun and Empire. Those new varieties have now become the mainstay of our operation.”
In terms of flavor, the Snapdragon — a cross between a Honeycrisp and a numbered apple that hasn’t been introduced for sale — is described as a better-tasting version of the Honeycrisp, with a “really nice crunch and really nice flavor,” said Robin Leous, a representative with Crunch Time Apple Growers. Its tagline is “Monster crunch.”
“It’s every bit as good as Honeycrisp, which is a good-tasting apple,” Mr. Wickham added. “But it has just a little bit more flavor — a little more zip, more tang to it.”
Wickham’s Fruit Farm is a member of Crunch Time Apple Growers, a grower-owned organization that, with the help of Cornell University, develops new varieties for the marketplace. Crunch Time comprises 145 New York State growers, 60 percent of the state’s apple producers.
The Snapdragon is easier to grow than the Honeycrisp, according to Mr. Wickham.
“Honeycrisp trees are prone to diseases,” he said. “Everyone’s been looking for an apple that’s as good or better than Honeycrisp, but is more user-friendly — and that’s Snapdragon. Snapdragon is a wonderful-tasting apple.”
Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said new varieties can increase yields without compromising quality, which can help save farmers money. This is especially important considering the other pressures they face, like finding labor; supply, equipment and water costs; and taxes and regulations.
“It’s very encouraging to see innovation,” he said. “We can’t do things the way that we did them 50 years ago. Innovation in agriculture is very important to keep up with the new technologies.”
Developed in the Finger Lakes city of Geneva, N.Y., the Snapdragon has been available at upstate farms in limited quantities since 2013. In addition to Wickham’s Fruit Farm, it’s also grown at Harbes Farm & Orchard, according to Harbes Family Farm’s website.
Ms. Leous described creating a new variety of apple as a complicated process.
“It’s a lot different than it used to be,” she said. “The varieties are all put on various rootstocks. Rootstocks determine the size of the trees; some are better for certain varieties. That part takes a while.”
Ms. Leous explained that Crunch Time Apple Growers partnered with Cornell, which created the apple, and that Crunch Time has the right to market the product in North America.
Wickham’s planted its Snapdragon trees in 2012. This week, the farm announced on its Facebook page that the apples were finally ready to be harvested. They’re now available prepackaged at the farm stand or for U-pick.
Harbes’ Snapdragon apples, however, weren’t expected to be ready for purchase this week. Statewide, the variety is available only at farm stands, but Crunch Time plans to sell it in retail stores in mid-October.
Later in October, Wickham’s will also release Rubyfrost, another new variety. Slightly larger than the Snapdragon, the Rubyfrost is described as a sweeter apple perfect for both eating and baking.