The Truth About The Cosmic Crisp Apple

Everyone has their favorite go-to apple variety. Some like the deeper red of a Red Delicious, while others prefer the crispness of Honeycrisp, and the slightly more tart taste of Granny Smith is popular for both cooking and eating. Now there is the Cosmic Crisp, which could become the next apple craze.

The Cosmic Crisp apple is a variety that was developed in Washington State, which is the largest producer of apples in the U.S. Their main variety was Red Delicious, but in the 1990s, Washington started losing market share for their apples to other varieties, such as Fuji and Gala. Then, in 1991, the Honeycrisp apple was released by the University of Minnesota. Honeycrisp apples quickly became popular, but to grow them, farmers in Washington had to get licensing or a membership to a grower's club, both of which were expensive. The best alternative Washington farmers could see was to develop their own variety (via America's Test Kitchen).

Bruce Barritt, a horticulturist, and Kate Evans, a pome fruit breeder, decided to create an apple that was crisp while still firm and juicy. In 1997, they began by taking the best parts of Honeycrisp and Enterprise apples. The Honeycrisp gave the apple crispness with a sweet flavor, and the Enterprise gave it a longer shelf life, as well as its gorgeous color. "Enterprise was chosen really because of its appearance," Evans said on the podcast Sporkful (via Smithsonian Magazine). "It looks really nice — it's a very pretty apple."

Growing Cosmic Crisp apples

The next year, the seeds for WA-38, as the apple is known, germinated, and those first seeds have been growing since then (for more than 20 years) before producing fruit that was ready to send to markets late last year. This year, 2 million boxes of Cosmic Crisps will be sent to stores everywhere.

Initially, Barritt and Evans worked to get an apple that could thrive in Washington's climate, which is cool and rainy. They also wanted to have a balance between sweetness and acidity. It was also important that the apples have a long shelf life, as it would have to hold its crispness over long distances.

The change required the farmers in Washington to pull out all their Red Delicious orchards and plant Cosmic Crisp instead. This was a major financial risk for them, as they planted 12 million apple trees. However, they also got the exclusive rights to grow Cosmic Crisps for 10 years. Also, to extend the selling season, apple producers treat the apples with fungicide and then store the apples in a refrigerated, controlled atmosphere that is one percent carbon dioxide and two percent oxygen (via Salon).

The cosmic in Cosmic Crisp

The Cosmic Crisp got its name from a consumer focus group. The skin on the apple reminded tasters of outer space (via Cosmic Crisp). This appearance comes from the lenticels, which are small, porous holes on the surface of the apple.

In October 2019, the apple was ready. It was launched with a $10 million marketing campaign with slogans like, "The Apple of Big Dreams," and, "Imagine the Possibilities." The apple even has its own web site and Instagram, and it also has six brand ambassadors to promote the apple. This year you can find them in your grocery store, and you'll be able to see what the big deal is really all about.