In this part of the country, the name Allen Brothers is synonomous with apples. So, when Russell Allen kept telling me that I ought to write an article about the impact of one variety - the Honeycrisp - on the United States' apple industry, I figured he had a good reason.
Russell is about as knowledgable about apples as any living human, and not a man given to hyperbole.
"We bought our first orchard in 1956," he said, "so I've been growing apples for over 50 years. This is the first variety that has come down the pike that has revolutionized the industry. The Jonagold didn't do it, and neither did the Spy Gold. The Honeycrisp has."
The Honeycrisp was developed in 1991 at the University of Minnesota from a Macoun and Honeygold cross, with the Honeygold itself a cross between the Golden Delicious and Haralson. The result is an apple of outstanding size, flavor texture, color and storageablility that hit the orchards in 1995.
It's a great crisp, eating apple and its flavor will enhance any cooked dish that includes apples. The University said the Honeycrisp was "the best, most exciting apple we've ever introduced."
Russell said that Allen Brothers weren't the first to catch on to the value of a Honeycrisp, but they have been growing and selling them for 12 years now. Ray Mark at Wellwood Orchards has been growing them for the last few years as well.
"It's a good apple and people love them," Mark said. "They are a little harder to manage, but outside of that they're a really good tree."
Honeycrisps are also a valuable apple, and have more than taken over the top spot that Macintosh apples once held in this country.
"It's changed the whole industry," Russell said. "We pack a big skid each week to go to the Boston market. Mac was the premium variety for years. But I can send a skid of Honeycrisps to Boston for twice the price I get for Macs."