Club Apple Varieties Gain Ground

SweeTango apples, along with Kikus and Smittens, are among the top club varieties in Michigan, says Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, Lansing.  

SweeTango apples, along with Kikus and Smittens, are among the top club varieties in Michigan, says Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, Lansing.
 

Michigan growers are adding more club varieties to their product mixes.

BelleHarvest Sales Inc., Belding, Mich., for instance, is betting big on them. The company has inked a deal to become the official Midwestern licensee of the Smitten apple, an early-season New Zealand-bred variety that has been on the market for about five years, said Chris Sandwick, BelleHarvest’s vice president of sales and marketing.

The first trees are being planted this year, and the first fruit should be harvested in about three years, Sandwick said.

“It’s crunchy, very sweet, with great texture,” Sandwick said. “It does really well in taste tests.”

BelleHarvest also has increased production for this season on its Topaz apples, which the company has grown for five years.

The tart — or, as Sandwick calls it, “vibrantly acidic” — variety has a “nice niche following.”

BelleHarvest also will ship light volumes of Evercrisp, a Honeycrisp/fuji cross-bred in Ohio. The company got the right to grow the variety when it joined the Midwestern Apple Improvement Association, Sandwick said.

“We’ll have a lot more next year,” he said. “It’s another one with great texture, and it stores pretty well. We may see it later in the season.

In the post-Honeycrisp era, growers and shippers often seek out new varieties that can replicate Honeycrisp’s famous crunch.

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