Fall is here and so are decent apples. For many people, the height of apple season is when Honeycrisps start appearing. These people love the “explosively crisp” entrance of these apples; they adore their remarkable sweetness. These people are lining up for the wrong apple.
Honeycrisps are like listening to music with all the equalizer channels on 10. They’re blond-haired, blue-eyed, lantern-jawed superman apples. They are what Americans always goddamn do to food. We dig the bitterness that hops bring to beer, and pretty soon we’re quaffing brews with names like Hopsecutioner. We fall for the musty zing of Sriracha sauce, and next we’re inhaling Spicy Sriracha Chicken and Bacon Sriracha Fries. The Honeycrisp is the spiritual twin of Four Loko Gold and Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos. If Guy Fieri was an apple, he’d be a Honeycrisp.
Honeycrisps are comforting in the oily way a polar fleece sleeved blanket is comforting. There’s a bogus tang to their crisp finish—it’s autotuned, airbrushed, and artificial happiness. Honeycrisps take the field of your mouth the way the Redskins do during a home game, with flash pots firing and sirens blaring. But like the Redskins, that’s as exciting as things ever get. The introduction is everything with this apple; it has nothing left in the tank after that mind-bending first bite.
Their crispness and sweetness feel man-made, as if they’d sat on an assembly line while robotic arms injected them with precisely calibrated amounts of sugar and snap. That clone-factory taste reflects the Honeycrisp’s origin story—University of Minnesota scientists spent 30 years developing the fruit, and the school made millions licensing it. They’ve been out of patent since 2008, but they’re still a patent-troll’s dream apple.
In fact, the apples that have followed Honeycrisp off the assembly line could actually make you nostalgic for its killer-robot-from-the-future aesthetic. SweeTango–which combines Honeycrisp and Zestar!, a University of Minnesota-bred apple whose name includes that exclamation point–is an even crisper, even sweeter, even louder apple (anyone with misophonia should avoid people eating these apples). SweeTango is a “club apple,” an apple with lawyers. Only select growers can produce SweeTangos, and their name has been trademarked to help keep it that way even when the patent runs out.
The late-capitalism aftertaste aside, these apples were all bred with a noble purpose—to make Americans love the fruit again after decades of mealy, tasteless Red Deliciouses. But this is not an either/or. Winesaps and Arkansas Blacks are fabulous and easy to find at area farmers markets through the fall. Mutsus, Galas, Jonagolds—you can’t go wrong! With a little more work, you can find cider apples like Harrisons, Ashmead’s Kernels, or Hewes Crabs. Live a little! But leave those Honeycrisps in their bin. Because worst of all, they’re boring.