From the first crunch of the First Kiss apple, I knew it was one for me. I tried this latest Minnesota-born-and-bred apple variety on the first day of the Minnesota State Fair last week and found it lived up to its breeders’ expectations of an apple with the taste and texture of a Honeycrisp that could be harvested several weeks earlier, just as they had hoped.
It was crispy, tart and juicy—a winning combination for an apple in my eye. I might, dare I say, have preferred it to Honeycrisp, though would need to do a side-by-side taste test. While comparing apples to apples is certainly not comparing apples to oranges, there are subtle differences that make fierce fans of some varieties and scorners of others. While I really liked First Kiss, as did my sister-in-law that day, my husband thought it was too tart for his liking. Yet, he and I both really like Jazz apples. Go figure. Maybe those are a little sweeter. (If you haven’t tried Jazz, they are a must if you also like an apple with a little tart-sweet flavor and crunchy texture rather than a “Delicious,” which I put in quotes for a reason. But others prefer those mild sweet apples. No judgment. Well maybe a little.)
Here’s a fun fact for apple lovers: While more than 100 apple varieties are grown commercially in the United States, according the U.S. Apple Association, a total of 15 popular varieties account for almost 90 percent of production. No wonder it’s fun to learn of a new variety and give it a try.
There is still time to get a First Kiss at the State Fair through Labor Day, Sept. 3, as long as they have not run out at the apple stand in the Horticulture building. If you miss it at the fair, Lunds & Byerlys will have a very limited supply as well as the Wedge/Linden Hills Co-op.
The Washington state version of this apple variety, being marketed under the name Rave, will be sold in some stores this year. They should have the same tart flavor and crisp texture of their Minnesota apple sibling, though their journey from the orchard to us is not as short and sweet as the locally grown fruit. While First Kiss and Rave will likely stay at a higher price point like SweeTango and Honeycrisp, the price would be expected to come down some as availability increases and the novelty begins to wear off.
Pine Tree Orchards is supplying the State Fair its First Kiss, but it anticipates it could sell out by the end of Labor Day weekend. Other orchards to the north of the Twin Cities harvest a little later in the season so some First Kiss may be available there, but it’s best to call your local orchard to check on availability before making a trip if in search of a Kiss. But the beginning of fall is always a great time to get out to an orchard either way, and other recent “it” apples such as the SweeTango are available now, and then Honeycrisp will show up in a couple weeks. Here is a list of Minnesota-hardy apples you might find at a local orchard or in stores as you ponder your love of tart, crisp and juicy or more sweet and tender.