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My Favorite Fall Apple—Controversy or Not


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I noticed that SweeTango apples hit shelves at co-ops and farmers' market around the Twin Cities during the past month, and despite the surrounding lawsuit controversy, the SweeTango is a winner in the produce department.

The SweeTango debuted in 2009, and Hoch Orchard’s organic SweeTango is indeed the best apple I’ve sank my teeth into this fall. Developed as a cross of Honeycrisp and Zestar!, the SweeTango is a red apple with pale yellow tones throughout. It offers an explosive crunch, snappy skin, and tons of slightly sweet and tart juice. 

Having said that, they’re expensive. Due to factors surrounding supply and demand, locally produced, organic, SweeTango apples are more expensive than an average apple, with a wholesale price of $150 a bushel (compared to about $80 per bushel for organic, local Honeycrisps). That translates to about $7-$8/lb for the consumer.

If you’re in the market for a real treat, but you can’t afford a pound, you could pick up a single SweeTango or two. Savor SweeTango’s flavor by chopping it for an apple walnut salad, or you could slice and serve it with some sharp cheddar cheese or homemade caramels. When purchasing, be selective—it’s a red apple, but the color surrounding the stem might be pale yellow/pale green; if it’s bright green, it’s not ripe. Also, treat SweeTangos with care during transportation, as they bruise easily. 

As for the lawsuit, it has to do with rights. On one hand, like the Honeycrisp and the Zestar, the SweeTango apple is a University of Minnesota apple variety.  The U of M awarded exclusive SweeTango rights to Pepin Heights Orchard, which organized a cooperative to grow and market the variety. On the other hand, more than a dozen growers (several from Minnesota) filed a lawsuit last year claiming the exclusive agreement put them at an economic disadvantage. While the supposed settlement (which still must be approved by a judge) would uphold the university's agreement with Pepin Heights and the cooperative, it also would supposedly allow for more SweeTango apples to be grown and sold over time.

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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