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This fall's juiciest apple: Bite into a SweeTango Add to ...

Move aside, Honeycrisp. There’s a new apple coming to produce aisles this fall.

The SweeTango, a trademarked variety of apple developed by the University of Minnesota, was introduced in limited quantities to consumers in the Atlantic provinces last year. But now that growers in Nova Scotia have ramped up production, the apple will be distributed more widely across Atlantic Canada and Ontario in the coming weeks.

Scotian Gold Cooperative Ltd., a group of about 30 apple growers in Nova Scotia, is theexclusive marketer of the SweeTango in Canada. The red-skinned, white-fleshed, premium-priced variety is a cross between two hybrids, the Honeycrisp and the Zestar!, both bred by the University of Minnesota.

“Theoretically, the SweeTango has the juice, the crunch and the sweetness of the Honeycrisp,” says Karen Corey, director of marketing and business development for Scotian Gold. “And then it has a tart flavour as well … and that’s from the Zestar!.”

New “club” varieties (apples that require licensing agreements to market) have proliferated over the years, as growers and consumers alike seek the latest, trendiest cultivars. Although there are signs of renewed consumer interest in such heritage breeds as the Gravenstein, growers say these old varieties remain a niche market. The ones that generate the most hype are newer hybrids, from the Red Prince to the Pink Lady to SnowSweet.

“Just think about all the new food products in the grocery store, even on a monthly basis,” Ms. Corey says. When it comes to demand for new items, “the produce aisle is probably no different.”

It can take years to develop a new apple. Researchers spent more than a decade breeding the SweeTango variety. And it takes several more years, roughly five to eight, from the time farmers plant the trees to when the fruits are widely available, says Dela Erith, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association.

Scotian Gold growers, for instance, began planting SweeTango trees about four years ago. In the first year of growing, the blossoms are removed before they bear fruit to encourage the plants to grow. In the second year, farmers may produce enough apples for a small sampling, but it’s typically not until the third or fourth year that they have the volume to begin supplying stores, Ms. Corey says.

Since SweeTango is an early-season variety, growers began harvesting it last week, and will continue through till early next week. The fruit is expected be available at major grocery stores in Ontario and Atlantic Canada in the first week of October. However, the rest of the country will have to wait until growers can produce more.

Updates on where to find SweeTango are posted on Scotian Gold’s Facebook site.

Scotian Gold Cooperative Ltd., 1-888-726-8426, scotian@scotiangold.com

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