CHASKA, Minn. - Beginning this weekend, you can help the University of Minnesota's apple research program at an apple tasting event.
For decades, the U of M has been developing apples. We're talking 27 varieties and counting. Probably most notable is the Honeycrisp.
Now, researcher and fruit breeder David Bedford and his team, are getting ready to release a new apple called First Kiss. That's the name given if the apple is grown in Minnesota. It's called 'Rave' if grown outside of Minnesota.
First Kiss is a cross between a Honeycrisp and a variety from Arkansas.
"It's the hunt for that next level that kind of keeps us all motivated," said Bedford.
This time of year, Bedford is very busy. Walking up and down row after row of apples in the U of M's research orchard.
Every day, he tastes upwards of 500 apples.
"I actually do get tired of apples pretty much every day," he chuckles, but he believes his work is important in trying to find and breed the next great apple.
Bedford is called the "man with the billion dollar taste buds" because he's credited in part with changing the apple industry. He helped develop Honeycrisp, which took more than 30 years to hit the market when it was introduced in the mid-to-late 90s. That variety is now mostly grown in Washington.
"There are a number of orchards that say it saved their orchard, you know it saved the industry," said Bedford, because Honeycrisp gave people one more option, beyond the yellow, green and red apples families had been eating for generations, he says.
The original Honeycrisp tree still stands at the U of M's orchard.
Bedford has also helped in producing SweeTango, Zestar and Snow Sweet varieties, among others. Decades into his job with the U of M, he and his team are still looking for and working to breed that next new and great apple.
"We'll keep looking. It's out there somewhere and we'll find it, if not today eventually," said Bedford.
First Kiss will hit the market next summer.
If you're interested in the apple tasting events, it's happening the following days: Sept. 23-24, Sept. 30, Oct. 1, Oct. 7-8 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Visitor Center.