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A New Apple Is Born

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Sep 30, 2019

The apple industry has invented a new apple. Cosmic crisp. This fall, after 20 years of work, it hits stores. But the story behind creating a new type of produce, well, that's a lot less well-known. This week, Dan, Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist podcast, and NPR's Dan Charles explain.

When you go to the grocery store, you see strawberries, blueberries, oranges. Most of the time, it’s one kind of each. Maybe there are two types of oranges. Red and green grapes. 

Apples, though, are different. Red delicious, golden delicious, granny smith, gala, fuji, honeycrisp. The list goes on and on.

How are new apples developed? And what’s wrong with the old ones?

That’s what we learn about today, because this fall, there’s a new apple coming. It’s been 20 years in the making, and its launch will be the biggest in apple history.

We go on this adventure with our friend Helen Zaltzman, host of the excellent podcast on language, The Allusionist. (Check out her companion episode to this one, which goes up a couple of days after this, as well as her recent series of episodes on food!)

Join us as we learn about apple clubs, play a game called "Apple Variety Or New England Town", and even get to taste the new apple before it hits shelves.

Today's sponsors:

  • Download the mobile app or go to instacart.com and enter promo code SPORKFUL at checkout for $10 off and free delivery on your first order.
  • Go to meundies.com/sporkful to get 15% off your first pair, free shipping, and a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Interstitial music in this show by Black Label Music:

- "Clean" by J.T. Bates

- "New Old" by J.T. Bates

- "Get Your Shoes On Instrumental" by Will Van De Crommert

- "Mars Casino" by Jake Luck and Collin Weiland

- "Sweet Summer Love" by Stephen Sullivan

- "The Cosmos" by Jack Ventimiglia

Photo courtesy of Cosmic Crisp Media Kit.

Show Transcript:

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Dan Pashman:               So basically like first you make the apples have sex, then you have to raise the kids?

Kate Evans:                   Right? And then you've got to choose which kid you want to keep and all the rest of them you just get rid of. So that's when it becomes a little, you want to dissociate it from humans at that point.

Dan Pashman:               This is the Sporkful. It's not for foodies, it's for eaters. I'm Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. When you go to the grocery store you see strawberries, blueberries, oranges. Most of the time it's one kind of each. Right? Yeah, maybe they're like two types of oranges. They have red and green grapes. But apples, apples are different. Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp. The list goes on and on. So many apples. When I was a kid we didn't have Honeycrisp. That's how old I am.

Dan Pashman:               So where did that come from? How are new apples developed? What's wrong with the old ones? That's what we're going to learn about today, because this fall there's a new apple coming. It's been 20 years in the making, and it's launch will be the biggest in apple history. Later on, even though it's not on the market yet, I am going to get to try it. But before we get to that, I have a co-host for this week's episode, my old friend, Helen Zaltzman. Hey Helen.

Helen Zaltzman:           Hello. What a time for us to join together in this very significant moment in apple history.

Dan Pashman:               It's very exciting and longtime listeners will recall you from our discussion about the term brunch.

Helen Zaltzman:           Yes, a controversial word.

Dan Pashman:               Right. And because you're a language maven, you host the podcast the Allusionist, within a, and there's a lot to talk about with apple names. We'll get into that.

Helen Zaltzman:           That's right.

Dan Pashman:               So Helen, real quick before we get started, what is your relationship with apples?

Helen Zaltzman:           It's a, I'd say cordial and platonic. How's yours?

Dan Pashman:               It happens to be hot and heavy right now, I can tell you. I was kind of mad on apples growing up. Then I developed an allergy to apples in my twenties. I'm allergic to pollen, so the spring I always get, when everything's blooming. But there's this mouth allergy that you can develop where I would eat an apple, and the half the time I would get stuffy runny nose, itchy roof of mouth. Then it would go away in 45 minutes. It wasn't that serious, but it made me not eat many apples. And at some point I overcame it. And then I, in recent years, have developed a real love for apples. A nice cold, crunchy, juicy apple is one of my favorite afternoon snacks.

Helen Zaltzman:           I'm very impressed that you came back. I'm so happy for you.

Dan Pashman:               Thank you. I appreciate it.

Helen Zaltzman:           So Dan?

Dan Pashman:               Yes.

Helen Zaltzman:           Where shall we begin the story of this new apple?

Dan Charles:                 Maybe the first thing people should know is Washington state is the superpower of apples. More than half of all the apples in the country come from Washington state.

Dan Pashman:               This is Dan Charles. He's a food and agriculture reporter at NPR, and a former editor of the Sporkful. Dan's been following this new apple for years.

Dan Charles:                 Historically, this just kind of emerged in the apple industry. That there was one dominant apple variety and everybody knows what it was. You know what it was, right?

Dan Pashman:               Red Delicious.

Dan Charles:                 Red Delicious. Going back, what is this, almost 40 years, 1986, three quarters of all the apple orchards in Washington state were planted with Red Delicious.

Helen Zaltzman:           How has the Red Delicious got away with it for so long?

Dan Charles:                 The story people tell you is that the supermarkets had no interest in anything else. They said "We sell the green apple, the Granny Smith. We sell the yellow apple, the Golden Delicious. And we sell the red apple, the Red Delicious. Who needs anything else?"

Dan Pashman:               Am I right that that one of the draws of Red Delicious, aside from the fact that it was red, was that it kept very well. They were very durable.

Dan Charles:                 Yeah.

Helen Zaltzman:           They last forever because no one wants to eat them.

Dan Pashman:               Right.

Dan Charles:                 And the Washington industry, in particular, is really dependent on apples that store well. They have these vast buildings, climate controlled, because they harvest obviously in the fall. But they ship apples throughout the year. So that's really important for them.

Dan Pashman:               And was there a time when people thought Red Delicious apples were delicious?

Dan Charles:                 Yeah, I think there was, but there is also a theory that Red Delicious actually deteriorated over time. Because apple trees have this characteristic, a branch of the tree will start producing apples that are just slightly different. They're called a sport of the original variety. The theory is that, through this process, they actually were just selecting for color, and the taste actually deteriorated over time in that variety. But sort of skipping forward, Red Delicious is falling out of favor, and these new varieties are coming in. Over time there was Fuji. There was Gala obviously. And then Honeycrisp really kind of shook up the industry because here was an apple that people were consumers were willing to pay crazy amounts of money for. Because it was seen as a superior apple.

Dan Pashman:               Yeah, I'm not allowed to buy Honeycrisp in my house. Like if I come home with Honeycrisp, my wife will be like inspecting the receipt. She'll be like, "If these were not on sale you are going back to the store. We don't make Honeycrisp money."

Dan Charles:                 Right. Right. So you have these new varieties coming into the marketplace, and they're selling, and they're selling for better prices. And it's partly because there was this innovation.

Dan Pashman:               The innovation Dan's talking about is something called club apples.

Helen Zaltzman:           And we're not talking about apples that sit in a VIP lounge, glugging Cristal to music that goes (singing). Club apples are actually new types of apples developed and tightly controlled by cooperatives.

Dan Pashman:               Yeah. So the cooperative owns the license to grow a new type of apple and only issues licenses to a few growers, for a fee. If you're not in the club, you can't grow the apple.

Helen Zaltzman:           You've probably seen one of these club apples at the store, or the farmer's market. Pink Lady was the first. There's also Kiku, Jazz, SnapDragon, Lady Alice.

Dan Pashman:               SweeTango is a club apple. You may have heard their ads on this show before. The names of these club apples are not generic plant names. They're trademarked brand names. So, Helen, that's kind of like with pharmaceuticals. You know how the actual name of the medication is like 27 letters, and it's unpronounceable, but then the brand name of the drug is like Shazam.

Helen Zaltzman:           I was shocked that apples are also like that. My big question for Dan Charles was, do these clubs actually produce better tasting apples?

Dan Charles:                 I think there's a good argument that this has stimulated the proliferation of new apple varieties that come onto the market, and some of them are good. There were breeding programs coming out with great apple varieties in years past, but there was kind of this chicken and egg problem. The growers didn't want to buy those trees and grow those varieties because they didn't think the consumers would demand them. And so consumers didn't have a chance to taste them.

Dan Pashman:               And you can understand why growers would be reluctant to plant new varieties. It takes a long time to grow an apple tree. They have to commit to planting years before the apple is going to hit the market. So they have no idea if anyone's going to want to buy it when it's grown.

Helen Zaltzman:           That's where the apple clubs do really help. They control how many growers get licenses, so they control supply, which helps ensure the growers get good prices. And the clubs provide marketing. They make sure that when the new apple is ready, there's a well funded push to get people to buy it.

Dan Pashman:               All that makes it a lot easier for growers to commit to new apples. Now the club concept isn't exactly new. The Pink Lady was developed in the early seventies. But it's only recently that club apples have reached the same level as the classics.

Helen Zaltzman:           However, while this revolution has been happening, the growers in Washington state have largely been left out. As Dan Charles explains, they're still stuck growing Red Delicious.

Dan Charles:                 So they're looking for a new variety to grow that'll sort of get them into this game of premium, higher priced apples. And along comes Washington State University, because they started up an apple breeding program, and they come along with one that they think is really pretty good. And Washington State University says, "We're going to play this game too. We're going to play the club apple game." So they hire a marketing company, and they come up with a name, and a trademark. And the name is Cosmic Crisp.

Dan Pashman:               Cosmic Crisp.

Helen Zaltzman:           Cosmic Crisp.

Dan Charles:                 Cosmic crisp.

Helen Zaltzman:           Cosmic crisp?

Dan Pashman:               We'll get more into the name later.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh, you better believe it.

Dan Charles:                 They said "We're going to put a lot of money into marketing this variety." And, at least for the first few years running, only going to let growers in Washington state grow this thing. So it came along at the right time, and under circumstances that made growers really go for it like gangbusters.

Dan Pashman:               Washington State University spent more than 20 years, and a lot of money developing Cosmic Crisp. They're spending 10 million bucks on marketing alone.

Helen Zaltzman:           Having another big apple will really benefit the state's growers. Meanwhile, the school has its own reasons for investing so much.

Dan Charles:                 They're going to be making, I'm guessing, at least a hundred million dollars. They have put nowhere close to that into their breeding programs over the last 20 years.

Dan Pashman:               That's pretty good. $100 million on apples.

Dan Charles:                 And that's so quick. These other varieties, like Honeycrisp, actually took 20 years to build a following.

Dan Pashman:               So is there a risk here?

Dan Charles:                 Yeah, there is a risk and I think the growers in Washington know that it's a risk. I mean the risk is that they flood the market and consumers are just not overwhelmed and end up not buying the production.

Helen Zaltzman:           Have any apples really flopped before?

Dan Charles:                 I don't think there was ever a launch like this before.

Dan Pashman:               So the stakes are high. Growers in Washington have planted millions of Cosmic Crisp trees, essentially on faith. In part, they're counting on the big marketing push the university will provide. But marketing only gets you so far. At the end of the day, this apple better be good.

Kate Evans:                   Well it's certainly an exciting time. I think that we've seen for a long time the potential of this apple and there's certainly, I believe, space for it out there. So I hope that consumers enjoy it as much as we have.

Helen Zaltzman:           This is Kate Evans. She oversees the breeding program that developed the Cosmic Crisp.

Kate Evans:                   I am the leader of the pome fruit breeding program at Washington State University. I'm a professor of horticulture.

Dan Pashman:               Did you just say pum freet?

Kate Evans:                   I said, good one, pome fruit I said. So apple is a pome fruit. As is pear, and quince, and other similarly related fruits.

Dan Pashman:               Got it.

Kate Evans:                   I cover apples and pears.

Dan Pashman:               So what's that word? How do you spell it?

Kate Evans:                   Pome, P-O-M-E.

Dan Pashman:               Helen. Have you heard this word pome?

Helen Zaltzman:           I'm very excited to hear it. It sounds like it comes from French apple, pomme.

Kate Evans:                   It does sound like that. Yes. I presume that there's some relation between the two. But yeah, I'm not a word specialist.

Helen Zaltzman:           That's why I'm here.

Dan Pashman:               All right. Is it connected to pomegranate?

Helen Zaltzman:           Yeah, pomegranate is a, I don't know whether... Well Kate would know whether they are connected to fruit wise, but etymologically pomegranate meant apple with many seeds.

Kate Evans:                   Oh.

Dan Pashman:               Oh, look at all that we're learning here. So Kate, start at the very beginning here. When you are breeding an apple variety, what are the basic qualities that you're judging the apple by?

Kate Evans:                   Well, that's the fundamental question. What is it that you want in an apple? What is it that consumers want in an apple? Good textural traits and that, texture itself is complex. It's firmness, crispness, juiciness, all of those things combined. And then, of course, you have the effect of the skin because the skin to the flesh makes a difference in terms of how you perceive the texture.

Dan Pashman:               Yes.

Kate Evans:                   And then you've got all those flavoral traits. You've got tartness, sweetness, aromatics. But also trying to combine that with those traits that would make it work for the grower and for the whole production line. So how well a piece of fruit will store in refrigerated storage makes a big impact to the eating quality of that piece of fruit in say May or June. And so that's an important trait.

Dan Pashman:               Right. I like though, Kate, that you separate the, there's the texture of the skin and then the texture of the interior.

Kate Evans:                   Right.

Dan Pashman:               And for me, I think that I really want the skin to feel thin but yet still firm so that there's like a snap when you bite through that skin. And then I want the apple inside to be very firm and crunchy.

Kate Evans:                   Right.

Dan Pashman:               But I don't like a thick skin.

Kate Evans:                   Right. And nobody does. It's not something that we'd be selecting for.

Dan Pashman:               Is there such thing as too firm or crunchy of an apple interior?

Kate Evans:                   Oh yes. This is kind of funny. Yesterday I was out walking my orchard rows with a student intern that we've got at the moment, and I was explaining about evaluation of seedlings. And there are certain, when you pick an apple off the tree, you've never tasted that fruit before. It looks nice. You think, "Oh, I'll give it a bite. See what it does." And you can't actually get your teeth in. That's too firm.

Dan Pashman:               Right, right. Is there such thing as an apple that's too juicy?

Kate Evans:                   Ooh, too juicy? I would say probably not.

Dan Pashman:               Coming up, Kate breaks down the science of how the Cosmic Crisp was born.

Helen Zaltzman:           Then later we will taste the Cosmic Crisp.

Dan Pashman:               (singing).

Helen Zaltzman:           Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Dan Pashman:               Stick around.

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Dan Pashman:               Welcome back to the Sporkful. I'm Dan Pashman. While back, I interviewed legendary food critic Mimi Sheraton here on the show. She told this story about a time when she had 104 pastrami sandwiches in her car. She was taking them to a scale to weigh them because she wanted to see which Jewish deli gave you the biggest sandwich for your money. Well a Sporkful listener named Bill in San Clemente, California heard that episode and called in with a pretty provocative suggestion.

Bill:                              The first thought I had was that they make the sandwiches smaller for women. And my wife and I were discussing it, she wasn't so sure that would be true. And I think you guys should do a episode where you guys do some investigative eating and get out there and see if there's a gender disparity in the sandwich making.

Dan Pashman:               So in last week's podcast, that's exactly what we did. Is sandwich sexism real? The episode's up now, listen and find out. Now back to apples. And I'm joined once again by my friend Helen Zaltzman, host of the Allusionist podcast. Hey Helen.

Helen Zaltzman:           Hello Dan. So the Cosmic Crisp was first developed by an apple breeder at Washington State University named Bruce Barrett. He's since retired.

Dan Pashman:               Yeah, that's how long this apple has been in development. The guy who came up with it originally retired before the apple could come out.

Helen Zaltzman:           It is really a job for the incredibly patient. So Bruce Barrett retired. And in comes Kate Evans who is now professor of horticulture and head of apple breeding at Washington State. She's continued to oversee the program. She was the one we were speaking with before the break. We heard about the traits they want in an apple, but how do they actually make that happen?

Kate Evans:                   The technology has been used for hundreds of years.

Dan Pashman:               So walk us through the basic steps of it.

Kate Evans:                   Right. So once you have chosen your traits that you're looking for, the characteristics you're looking for in a new apple, you've got to choose which two parents you think might, combined, produce offspring that would have the quality characteristics that you're looking for.

Dan Pashman:               So in the case of the Cosmic Crisp, who are the parents?

Kate Evans:                   Honeycrisp, which most people are aware of now, that was its pollen parent or male parent. And then it's female parent was Enterprise.

Dan Pashman:               And so Honeycrisp we know is sweet, juicy, crunchy. It's a very popular prized apple in the US. What does Enterprise bring to the table?

Kate Evans:                   Enterprise was chosen really because of its appearance. It looks really nice. A very pretty apple.

Dan Pashman:               And am I right? One of the shortcomings of Honeycrisp has also been that it's not so easy to grow?

Kate Evans:                   Correct. Yes, yes. Honeycrisp, well certainly in Washington, is challenging to growers.

Dan Pashman:               Right. So would Enterprise help to address that?

Kate Evans:                   Well, that was the hope at the time and certainly it seems as if we've achieved that with this particular cross.

Helen Zaltzman:           So how do they actually do that? Well, like all fruit apples start out as apple flowers. When pollen fertilizes the flower, the flower makes apple seeds, which grow into apples. Do we have to put an explicit rating on this episode, Dan?

Dan Pashman:               I think we're okay. But to do a cross, scientists like Kate, take the pollen from one apple flower, in this case on a Honeycrisp tree. And they brush it onto another apple flower, in this case on an Enterprise tree.

Helen Zaltzman:           That fertilized flower then makes hybrid seeds that will grow to become Cosmic Crisp apples. But in the early going, each one of those apples has four to six seeds inside it, and each of those seeds is different. Some of them might not make such great apples.

Kate Evans:                   And so in the same way that you and your siblings are offspring of your two parents, but you're all different, you've all inherited a slightly different combination of genes from your mother and your father. That's how it is with the seeds that are in the apple. And so you get differences in those seeds.

Dan Pashman:               And the only way to know for sure which seeds are best is to actually grow them into apple trees. And trees don't grow overnight. In the end, it took the team at Washington State 20 years. Twenty years to grow the trees, select the best seeds, grow more trees, select the best seeds and so on until you have seeds that consistently produce the apple you've been chasing. But the work isn't over then.

Helen Zaltzman:           That's right, because as Dan Charles said earlier, the big problem in the past has been that growers didn't want to plant the trees for a new apple because they were afraid it wouldn't sell.

Dan Pashman:               Kate and Washington State University had to convince growers that this apple would sell. And that's especially hard with an apple because we all know about so many different varieties already.

Kate Evans:                   You've got a lot more diversity in the marketplace. You have consumers that know that diversity. They've got their own favorites. You've got consumers that love Granny Smith. You've got consumers that love Golden Delicious.

Dan Pashman:               Kate do not say that you've got consumers that love Red Delicious.

Kate Evans:                   You have. Absolutely.

Dan Pashman:               Your credibility is going out the window here, Kate. Come on.

Kate Evans:                   Well, people buy them.

Helen Zaltzman:           They're people who hate themselves.

Dan Pashman:               Right.

Kate Evans:                   So because of that, you have to market an apple in a different way. It has to come out with a name. It has to have some kind of market recognition, as the individual variety.

Dan Pashman:               So a new apple needs to stand out from the others. It needs to be memorable. And for that it needs a great name.

Kathryn Grandy:           The naming took somewhere about a year, six months to really do sensory testing and come up with the name. And then consumer testing, probably another six months.

Dan Pashman:               This is-

Kathryn Grandy:           Kathryn Grandy. I am Chief Marketing Officer for Proprietary Variety Management. And we have been contracted by Washington State University to commercialize the WA 38, which is now called Cosmic Crisp.

Helen Zaltzman:           It's a catchier name.

Dan Pashman:               Right. Kathryn has been naming and marketing fruit for more than a decade. Her company's one of the big guns in this industry. They've worked on apples like Pink Lady, SnapDragon, Lucy Rose, and more.

Helen Zaltzman:           So could you take us through the kind of process it usually takes to come up with an apple name?

Kathryn Grandy:           Sure. As a marketing group we look at what's the parentage, what does it look like, and then we taste it. And what's the flavor profile? Is it sweet? Is it crunchy? Is it juicy? And then we do sensory testing with consumers.

Dan Pashman:               Kathryn's company brings consumers in for blind testing. Each person gets the apple, and they feel it, and smell it, and then bite into it. And they share their impressions. And the company uses those impressions to brainstorm names.

Helen Zaltzman:           Kathryn says there are some name suggestions that always come up, but that aren't as good as people think.

Kathryn Grandy:           People love to name fresh fruit after candy. And we've had the candy cane, candy apple, candy crunch. And it's just like taking a fresh piece of fruit, that's very nutritious, and calling it candy just, or sugar this, just didn't feel right.

Dan Pashman:               Another challenge with apple naming? Uniqueness.

Helen Zaltzman:           To qualify for a trademark, your name has to be unique. So common names, like Red Beauty, wouldn't work.

Dan Pashman:               Protecting their trademark is key to Washington State's success. That's a big part of how they make sure that anyone who wants to grow Cosmic Crisp has to pay royalties to do it.

Helen Zaltzman:           The last big apple was Honeycrisp. But the program, at the University of Minnesota, that developed the Honeycrisp didn't invest in trademark protection for it. And so lost out on a lot of potential revenue.

Dan Pashman:               With Cosmic Crisp Washington State is trying to learn from Minnesota's mistake. They say most of the revenue will be reinvested into the apple breeding program. But all that doesn't explain the name itself.

Helen Zaltzman:           What was the inspiration for cosmic?

Kathryn Grandy:           So at the consumer focus groups, somebody said, "This apple, the lenticels, the little dots in the apple, it makes it look like the night sky." And so they started brainstorming off that and said, "Yeah, you mean like the Cosmos." And then somebody else said, "Well there's, Honeycrisp is one of the parents. So how about Cosmic Crisp?"

Dan Pashman:               I wonder if the sort of evolution from a name like Red Delicious to a name like Cosmic Crisp is also reflective of just a larger change in language and marketing. In that, I feel like nowadays marketing is more evocative-

Kathryn Grandy:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan Pashman:               ... and less literal.

Kathryn Grandy:           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan Pashman:               The way that you have Gatorade flavors that are not flavors, like Arctic Blast or whatever. Nothing tastes like Arctic Blast, but it just evokes a feeling.

Kathryn Grandy:           That's right.

Dan Pashman:               So I wonder if that's a larger trend.

Kathryn Grandy:           Oh, definitely. And you in naming that apple we're looking at what is our story and how can we make this really intriguing to the consumer.

Helen Zaltzman:           There's an apple called Strawberry. How is that allowed? That's just confusing.

Kathryn Grandy:           Well maybe it looks like a strawberry.

Dan Pashman:               Maybe it has hints of strawberry in its flavor.

Helen Zaltzman:           Not good enough. I liked that there's one called Jonathan as well. That's the norm core apple.

Dan Pashman:               I think though my favorite might be Laxton's Epicure.

Helen Zaltzman:           Ooh, classy.

Dan Pashman:               Yeah. It's very fancy sounding, but the internet says it bruises easily, Helen.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh no, no one wants that.

Dan Pashman:               All right, Kathryn, before we let you go, we're going to play a special game. You and Helen are both contestants. This game is called apple variety or New England town.

Kathryn Grandy:           Hey.

Dan Pashman:               You ready to play?

Kathryn Grandy:           Okay.

Dan Pashman:               Ashmead's Kernel.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh, town.

Kathryn Grandy:           I was going to say town.

Dan Pashman:               Ashmead's Kernel is an apple.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh.

Kathryn Grandy:           Ah.

Dan Pashman:               Cumberland.

Kathryn Grandy:           Apple.

Dan Pashman:               What do you think, Helen?

Kathryn Grandy:           I'm going to go apple.

Dan Pashman:               Cumberland is a town.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh, come on.

Dan Pashman:               Man, you guys are struggling. I thought I was going to make this game harder. I mean this is a game that I have played many times before because I'm very cool. Next one. Leominster.

Helen Zaltzman:           I mean, that's an England England town, called Leominster. Would they have bothered exporting that as a town to New England. I don't think you'd call an apple that.

Dan Pashman:               So you're saying town?

Helen Zaltzman:           I'm to go town.

Dan Pashman:               Kathryn?

Helen Zaltzman:           I feel very insecure.

Kathryn Grandy:           I have no idea, but I'd say town.

Dan Pashman:               You are both correct. Leominster is a town.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh, thank goodness.

Kathryn Grandy:           We've saved face, Helen.

Dan Pashman:               Yes, it's spelled L-E-O-M, but it's pronounced like the fruit lemon. That's why I thought that one was tricky. Next one. Adam's Pearmain.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh, I'm going to go apple for that. Even though it says pear in the name.

Kathryn Grandy:           Yep, apple.

Dan Pashman:               You are correct. Apple.

Helen Zaltzman:           Say we're warmed up now.

Dan Pashman:               All right, now you're getting good now. Now we're coming down the homestretch. Here we go. Baldwin.

Helen Zaltzman:           Apple.

Kathryn Grandy:           Apple.

Dan Pashman:               That one is both. It was a trick question.

Helen Zaltzman:           Oh, come on. Curse you, Dan Pashman.

Dan Pashman:               Next one, Strong.

Helen Zaltzman:           Apple?

Kathryn Grandy:           Town.

Dan Pashman:               It is a town. Point for Kathryn.

Kathryn Grandy:           Oh, I'm feeling quite cocky over here.

Helen Zaltzman:           You've earned it.

Dan Pashman:               You sound like you've got more swagger right now, Kathryn.

Kathryn Grandy:           Yeah. Yeah. Completely.

Dan Pashman:               One more for you. Apple variety or New England town, Cumberbatch.

Kathryn Grandy:           Oh, boy.

Helen Zaltzman:           Town.

Kathryn Grandy:           I would say it's a town.

Dan Pashman:               The correct answer is neither.

Kathryn Grandy:           Uh.

Helen Zaltzman:           Uh. That's not fair.

Dan Pashman:               Come on. Cumberbatch. It's not a town or an apple variety. It's a heartthrob.

Helen Zaltzman:           Then it doesn't belong in this quiz, Dan.

Dan Pashman:               All right. Well that was a very fun game, Helen, but as I think we made clear the folks at Washington State are not playing.

Helen Zaltzman:           Yeah, this is the biggest launch in apple history. What a time to be alive. There are a reported 12 million trees ordered. And 5 million boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples will be delivered to grocery stores when they launch later this year.

Dan Pashman:               Availability will be limited this first year. Next fall, you should see it everywhere. But we managed to get our hands on some right now. I chilled mine because colder apples are crunchier. And now Helen-

Helen Zaltzman:           It's time.

Dan Pashman:               It's time for the moment of truth. I understand you already ate yours.

Helen Zaltzman:           Well I couldn't wait any longer to understand what all the fuss is about. Also, I had to fly to Canada and I couldn't take it over the border.

Dan Pashman:               Oh, come on Helen. really you're worried about taking, you think they're going to find, is that really what the TSA is most concerned with?

Helen Zaltzman:           I got fined 400 New Zealand dollars for accidentally bring an apple into New Zealand earlier this year. So I'm not taking the risks.

Dan Pashman:               So you're already a renowned international apple smuggler.

Helen Zaltzman:           Yeah, well failed apple smuggler.

Dan Pashman:               Right. Right. Okay. So I want to hear what you thought, but let me, I don't want to be biased your opinion.

Helen Zaltzman:           Yeah. No.

Dan Pashman:               So let me take a bite and then we'll discuss. All right. They sent me four. I'm checking each one to see which one seems most perfect. They're all-

Helen Zaltzman:           They're very perfect looking apples. You'd cast one of those apples in a production of Snow White.

Dan Pashman:               Yes, they're round, but there's some variation from each one. Some are more uniformly dark red. Others have more of a light red area. But then I do see the cosmic, I don't know that I would have equated them to stars, but I understand what they're saying. There's these little, I think freckles is a better analogy-

Helen Zaltzman:           Yeah. It reminded me a bit of a dappled horse.

Dan Pashman:               Yes. It is a nice deep dark shade of red, which I find very satisfying.

Helen Zaltzman:           Eat it. Eat it.

Dan Pashman:               All right. I'm going in. Mm. That is very juicy. Very juicy. The juice is running down the side of the apple.

Helen Zaltzman:           How'd you feel about that? Do you feel like it's adding a level of stress?

Dan Pashman:               I would never say an apple was too juicy. I'll get my hands messy. It does feel like, you know how like the screens on devices keep getting brighter and brighter and brighter. The entire sensory experience of this apple is just amped up and elevated.

Helen Zaltzman:           That's a very good way of putting it.

Dan Pashman:               It's extremely crunchy, extremely juicy, extremely sweet, and also acidic. It's like a Technicolor apple.

Helen Zaltzman:           I did think, before tasting it, "Oh, will any apple live up to 20 years of development?" And then having eaten it, I thought, "Yeah, maybe." What I admired about it is that it's sweet, but it's not too sweet, which I think is a hard balance. And also it is very crisp. So maybe if it was not as sweet as it is, then it would be a little sharp in one's mouth.

Dan Pashman:               Well, hold on one sec.

Helen Zaltzman:           This is how he dies. Oh no.

Dan Pashman:               No, yeah. I wasn't choking on apple. The juice, the apple is so juicy that I had apple juice go down the wrong pipe. That's what just happened to me.

Helen Zaltzman:           Jeepers.

Dan Pashman:               This might be the juiciest apple I've ever eaten.

Helen Zaltzman:           At what price? It's not worth dying over. You said it couldn't be too juicy but-

Dan Pashman:               Maybe that's the marketing ploy Cosmic Crisp is going after. The apple so juicy it killed Dan Pashman.

Dan Pashman:               All right, Helen, that was a delicious adventure as expected. And I should tell folks, Helen, we covered apple naming a little bit here in this episode. But you've done a deep dive on that subject for the Allusionist. You've got a companion episode to this one up.

Helen Zaltzman:           We've got a lot of apple metaphors in our vocabulary, and we say things like the apple of my eye. And if you go far enough back, apple just meant fruit, wasn't even specifically apple apples.

Dan Pashman:               Really?

Helen Zaltzman:           Yeah.

Dan Pashman:               Well that's just one of the many things that I will learn when I listen to companion episode to this one. That episode of the Allusionist goes up a couple of days after this one.

Helen Zaltzman:           Well you've already learned it now. That's the spoiler.

Dan Pashman:               Oh, all right.

Helen Zaltzman:           They'll be some other things in it.

Dan Pashman:               I bet there will be. And you just did a whole set of episodes about food.

Helen Zaltzman:           I certainly did. Yum. Yum.

Dan Pashman:               Again, the podcast is the Allusionist. Check it out. Thanks, Helen.

Helen Zaltzman:           Apples out.

Dan Pashman:               Next week on the show, I talk with Claire Saffitz, star of Bon Appetit's hit YouTube series Gourmet Makes. While you wait for that one, check out last week's show Is Sandwich Sexism Real. That's up now. Please follow me on Instagram. That's where I do most of my social media posting these days. Find out what I'm eating, find out who I'm hanging out with, and what else is going on in my life when you follow me on Instagram at the Sporkful. This week our show is produced by me along with senior producer-

Ann Sandy:                   [Ann Sandy 00:00:36:25].

Dan Pashman:               And associate producers-

Gofen Gutobwala:        [Gofen Gutobwala 00:36:29].

Dan Pashman:               and-

Harry Huggins:              [Harry Huggins 00:36:31].

Dan Pashman:               This episode was edited by-

John Delore:                [John Delore 00:00:36:34].

Dan Pashman:               Our engineer is-

Jared O'Connell:           [Jared O'Connell 00:36:36].

Dan Pashman:               Music help from Black Label Music. The Sporkful is a production of Stitcher, our executive producer, [Chris Bannon 00:00:36:44], and [Daisy Rosario 00:00:36:44]. Until next time, I'm Dan Pashman.

Jeff Grossman:              And this is [Jeff Grossman 00:36:48] from Redmond, Washington, saying, "Eat more. Eat better. And eat more better."

Speaker 15:                  Stitcher.

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