The First Kiss: worth waiting for

A First Kiss apple on the tree

The highly anticipated new apple from the University of Minnesota has dropped, and early indications are that it’s destined to be another huge commercial success, following in the footsteps of Honeycrisp and SweeTango.

The First Kiss created a buzz at the Minnesota State Fair, gaining rave reviews and selling out at the Horticulture Building in just a couple of days. But consumers will have to wait patiently until orchards can catch up with demand for the U of M’s latest—and 27th overall—apple release. “They’re (First Kiss apples) going to be slowly more available over the next 3-5 years,” says David Bedford, a research scientist in the U of M Department of Horticulture Science.

The First Kiss dates back to the 1990s, when U of M apple breeders Bedford and Jim Luby set out to breed an apple with the texture and great flavor of a Honeycrisp that would be ready to harvest by Labor Day. Meeting those first two criteria is no easy task, but that’s the baseline expectation for new apples from the U of M. “Everything has to live up to that or have an incredible excuse why it doesn’t,” Bedford jokes.

With the First Kiss (a cross between the Honeycrisp and a variety from the University of Arkansas known as AA44), not only did they unearth an apple that’s ready in mid- to late-August, it has the genetics to ripen well in warmer climates and conditions.

According to Bedford—and confirmed by those who have tasted it—the First Kiss indeed has the same texture as a Honeycrisp, and a flavor that’s more tart and tangy. He even considers the First Kiss to be ever-so-slightly more juicy than Honeycrisp and SweeTango, if that’s even possible. “We’re talking about being in rarified air with those three,” he says.

The First Kiss is available to any Minnesota grower who has a license, and the apple has also been licensed to a national grower in Washington state, Bedford says; outside of Minnesota, it will go by the name of Rave.

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