A new breed of apple more than 20 years in the making is traversing the galaxy and making its way to a grocery store near you.
Cosmic Crisp, developed by the Washington State University apple breeding program, is now available at several local grocery stores and will be at more in the coming days.
The cheery red-and-yellow fruit, named for the white starlike speckles on its skin, is a sweet-tart hybrid of Honeycrisp and Enterprise apples. It’s been the subject of excitement among Washington’s apple fans in recent years as the first shipment prepared to launch.
“It’s phenomenal to see it out in the store for consumers to be able to buy it and eat it,” said Kate Evans, interim director of the WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center in Wenatchee.
Evans has overseen the Cosmic Crisp project, among other fruit breeding programs, since 2008. She took over the task from horticulturist Bruce Barritt, who bred the new cultivated variety of apple back in 1997. It’s not a genetic modification, Evans stressed, referring to the process of using biotechnology to make changes to a plant’s DNA. It’s a question she’s seen over and over again about the fruit’s origins. But the Cosmic Crisp was born of selective breeding, using the natural ability apples have to hybridize.
“We’re using technology as we have for centuries,” she said. “There’s nothing really scary or high tech about it.”
Still, there’s plenty of science that goes into 22 years of work on one apple. Researchers in the lab have been testing for shelf life, sugar content, texture and other factors. Then there’s taste testing — lots and lots of taste testing. That’s usually fun, joked Evans.
“We’ve collected so much data,” Evans said.
The result of all that testing is an apple that’s sweet, but not too sweet, tart, but not too tart, with a crunchy bite and plenty of juice.
Cosmic Crisp apples are available at Chuck’s Produce & Street Market at $2.99 a pound, and will be available in Vancouver Fred Meyer stores starting today. New Seasons is also expected to offer the apples beginning Saturday. The apples are also available at QFC, but flew off the shelves and were out of stock at the Vancouver location on Wednesday, a company spokeswoman said. Another shipment is expected today.
This year’s crop of Cosmic Crisps might not be around for long. According to the Washington State University Foundation, only 450,000 40-pound boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples will be available. By 2020, however, that number is expected to grow to more than 2 million boxes.