New Apple Varieties We're Excited About: SnapDragon, RubyFrost

 @rpalmerscience
on October 22 2013 1:42 PM

Some of the newest apple releases weren’t unveiled at Tuesday’s event in San Francisco -- they were announced this past August in upstate New York. But keep in mind we’re talking about fruit, not computers.

Cornell University researchers have been breeding new flavors of apples since 1890. Its breeders have turned out more than 60 varieties, from the Jonagold (large, green-yellow brindled with crimson, sweet-sour) to the Empire (red, crunchy, sweet). In August, Cornell announced the addition of two new members of the apple family, developed in partnership with the industry group New York Apple Growers. The two new varieties are called SnapDragon and RubyFrost. (With names like that, they could almost pass for software updates!)

Both SnapDragon and RubyFrost have been in development for more than a decade, and until now were known by the relatively uninspiring names of NY1 and NY2. SnapDragon is a hybrid between Honeycrisp and another, unnamed apple, while RubyFrost is a child of Braeburn and Autumn Crisp.

“I remember my very first bite of SnapDragon,” Cornell horticulturalist Susan Brown, who led the breeding programs for the new strains, said in a statement this past August. “The taste, the crispness and the juiciness impressed us,” she said. “Retailers will appreciate its other qualities as well, because although SnapDragon’s harvest window starts relatively early -- in late September -- its long storage and shelf life means retailers may be able to offer it with consistent quality for a longer time than Honeycrisp.”

RubyFrost, meanwhile, reaches its peak later in fall. The breeders compare its taste to Empire and Granny Smith.

“I think juicy and refreshing when I eat a RubyFrost,” NYAG apple grower Mark Russell said in a statement in August. “It’s a fascinating apple, with a beautiful skin and a nice sugar-acid balance, but to me the crisp juiciness is rewarding every time. I don’t know how to express the idea of juice in a name, but ‘frost’ captures its refreshing quality.”

Through much of the 20th century, public universities that developed new apple varieties gave them away to the agricultural industry for free. But Cornell is looking to make a little green off of these apples, thanks to the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which allows universities and other entities that use federal funds in their research to pursue ownership of their inventions. To that end, Cornell is partnering with NYAG in an exclusive licensing agreement for RubyFrost and SnapDragon cultivation in North America. NYAG farmers pay royalties tied to the number of trees they purchase, acres they plant and amount of fruit they produce. Cornell plans to funnel the money back into its apple-breeding program, and to market the two new apple varieties.

Unlike the other kind of Apple product, the RubyFrost and the SnapDragon won’t be available nationwide for some time. There’s just 400 acres of trees for the two varietals growing in New York state, so for the moment, the only place to get them is at NYAG stands. But expect these new apples to arrive in your grocery store by 2015. 

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