Practically Eco: Red Delicious

TEXT by Celine MacKay | PHOTOGRAPHS by Apple season is in full swing. In this Practically Eco post, we investigate what the story is behind hybrid apple cultivars.


Depending where you live, apple season is in full swing. While the grocery store is always full of varieties from all over the world, there's nothing quite like a local apple. Whether it's picked from a wild apple tree of some unknown variety on your daily walk, purchased by the bushel from the local market or plundered from an orchard on a picking excursion, the satisfying crunch from your first bite is just sublime. Over the weekend, Erin and I were making our way to a photo shoot location for the upcoming new [PRINT!!!!] issue - as we made our way through the Halton Hills region of Ontario we found ourselves at a complete stop on a random country road. As the line creeped forward, we pondered what the problem could possibly be, and it was with near utter disbelief that we finally made it to the front of the line and found TWO policemen directing traffic into an orchard!! Granted, the weather couldn't have been more perfect and it was a holiday weekend, but still! There were fields full of vehicles. There must have been 1000 people picking apples - it seems I'm not the only one craving the seasonal delight. While I had to fight the urge to pull in, we continued on to our photoshoot, which turned out amazing [I can't wait to share it!!! I think you'll like it!!].


I myself look forward to the short two weeks at the farmer's market when Honeycrisp apples are available. You have to go early in the morning or they'll be gone, and you have to ask for them. With a sly wink, the seller pulls a basket from under the counter and quickly stuffs them into a bag. I'm not sure if we're on riot prevention here, but if we were I could understand why. There's quite simply nothing better than a Honeycrisp. Something strange occured to me though - why don't I remember them from when I was a kid? Well, that would be because it's a new variety, or a hybrid, which in turn led me to consider whether that is a good thing...? In a day and age where there is so much uproar and distrust in genetic modification, I wanted to know what is the actual difference between hybrids and G.M.'s? As it turns out they're quite different. Hybrids are the result of cross-breeding, quite literally the love child between two different but compatible plants, whereas genetic modification happens at the genetic level and usually modifies the traits of that same plant. While it's true that the hybridization process happens artificially, it also happens in nature. Pollinators such as bees cross-pollinate flowering plants all the time, resulting in happy accidents that we're not even always aware of. Other times it's a carefully considered process, creating what's known in the gardening world as a cultivar. Often cultivars a produced by grafting a branch or other part of one species onto another - this is usually done with plants that are very similar to each other and therefore have good compatibility, which is done all the time with flowering plants. For example, a fragrant plant may be bred with a hardy plant to get a longer lasting, fragrant flower. The Honeycrisp itself was created at the University of Minnesota in 1974 and was released for sale and propagation in 1991, and is known for its sweetness, firmness, and tartness which make it an ideal apple for eating raw. The Honeycrisp also retains its pigment well and boasts a relatively long shelf life when stored in cool, dry conditions. In fact, it is so popular that in 2006 the state of Minnesota declared it the state fruit! We've seen it grown here in Canada within the last ten years. [source]


I'm not the only fan!! Annie [my good horsey friend] is a pretty big fan too.