Introducing 3 Game-Changing New Apples

2017: Three new apples – two Honeycrisp crosses and a bittersharp cider apple – start off the 201st year in business for the world's oldest fruit-tree nursery.

Stark Bro's Introduces Three Game-Changing Apple Discoveries

LOUISIANA, MO — January 17, 2017 — Stark Bro's Nurseries & Orchards Co. has announced the arrival of three new apples to the market: Stark® Scarlet Crush™, Stark® Ruby Darling™, and Stark® Franklin Cider™. Each new variety represents an industry breakthrough for growers. All will be available for the 2017 season.

Stark® Scarlet Crush™ is a Honeycrisp/Pink Lady® cross with sweet and citrusy notes, and Honeycrisp's characteristic snap and juice.

Stark® Ruby Darling™, a natural hybrid of Honeycrisp and Gala, is a large, cherry-red fruit with a distinctive crunch and extra-large cells of sweet juice. Perhaps the best news for growers is that both of these crosses can be grown farther south than the original, and they also extend the notoriously short Honeycrisp season.

"Both crosses have good, uniform fruit shape, attractiveness, eating quality and firmness," says Ken Lane, Stark Bro's Chief Marketing Officer. "The real benefit is in their ripening time, which is from late September through early October, giving commercial growers a longer, much more profitable harvest window for Honeycrisp."

The company's third new apple, Stark® Franklin Cider™, is high in tannins, acids and sugar, an unusual complete set of sought-after characteristics that will have considerable appeal to hard-cider producers.

All three apples were discovered the same way Stark Bro's Red Delicious and Golden Delicious were discovered: growers sent samples to the company for evaluation.

Happy People

Long-time Stark Bro's customers Lee and Mary Elliott (pictured above) are familiar vendors at festivals and farm markets around Illinois, where their Honeycrisp apples always sell out. Most of their 50-acre Upstart Nursery is planted with Honeycrisp, which means the apples ripen and are gone — and that's it. Lee set out to "build a better apple" by crossing his orchard staple with other thoroughbred apples to create a new-and-improved Honeycrisp.

After a few trial years, the Elliotts began trucking their new apples to market. By chance, a Stark Bro's employee, Ricky Blackstun, happened to meet Lee and Mary at a local fall festival, where they struck up a conversation about their apple-breeding project. Ricky encouraged Lee to give Stark Bro's an opportunity to evaluate his new apples, which he did. Two of the samples — now officially trademarked as Stark® Scarlet Crush™ and Stark® Ruby Darling™ — are making their debut in the Stark Bro's Spring 2017 consumer catalog.

The story of the 'Franklin' cider apple is just as serendipitous. Back in 2008, Bill Mayo discovered a chance seedling in the midst of his 400-tree Honeycrisp orchard, and started incorporating it into the cider he was making for his general store in Franklin, VT.

Giant yellow apples

The mystery apple added a bite and dry finish to his sweet cider, which became very popular. Bill saw the fruit's opportunity for hard cider as well, and began sending off samples for evaluation — some of which found their way to Stark Bro's. Like the samples that came from the Elliotts, Stark Bro's realized the potential and secured the rights. The cold-hardy apple has formally been named Stark® Franklin Cider™, as an homage to the town where it originated.

Terence Bradshaw, tree fruit and viticulture specialist with the University of Vermont, has noted that tannins are the most difficult characteristic to get out of commercially grown hard-cider apples. (Tannins are polyphenolic compounds that provide mouthfeel, dryness, and a slight bitterness, all characteristics that are desirable in craft hard ciders.) He noted that the Stark® Franklin Cider™ apple ranked fifth highest in total polyphenols, third highest in sugars, and that the apple's acidity is akin to 'Northern Spy' and 'Liberty'.

"This new variety will likely supplant 'Kingston Black' (the current bittersharp cider apple benchmark) because it's far easier to grow, is a prolific annual producer and shows no signs of scab or cedar rust," says Cameron Brown, Stark Bro's president and CEO. "It's going to change the cider industry."

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