Dancing the Sweetango

Michael Nagrant / 09.29.08

sweetango apple

Sending a pack of apples to a fat man is a lot like sending a case of Coca-Cola to a crack addict, a set-up for incredible disappointment. Once in a while you get lucky though, maybe you find a thirsty grateful crack-ho, or in this case, a curious food-loving fat man who’ll put anything in his craw twice.

Ironically, just as I was reading this good post from Daniel Shumski over at the Chicago Reader food blog about the next “it” apple, I’d received a six-pack of Sweetango® apples from the “Next Big Thing” co-operative and the University of Minnesota Apple Breeding program. Despite sounding like a sequel to a Ted Nugent song, this particular apple is a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar!™ (yes, also an apple and not a Reagan-era defense initiative). The literature refers to the Honeycrisp as the mom and the Zestar!™ as the dad, though I always thought of apples as gender neutral. Anyways, as the curious man referenced above, I didn’t hesitate to chomp on one immediately.

It’s tough not to be skeptical about a fruit with publicists, a Madison Avenue-like marketing plan, and a freaky dark sounding cabal of co-operative growers known as the “Next Big Thing”. But, let me assure you, I’d be happy to throw the other five apples in the garbage, or at least flambé them with some New Orleans Cajun spiced rum, cinnamon, and sugar and call it a day if they sucked.

Instead, over the last couple of days, I’ve produced a full half dozen tooth-ridden fleshy apple carcasses. This apple is totally sick. If you can bite in to a cider mill, as in the whole hayrides, doughnuts, and pumpkin picking experience, not just the water wheel driven apparatus, then that’s exactly what the Sweetango® tastes like. Not only that, the crunch of the apple followed by a perfect August peach like juiciness that leaves you dribbling apple spittle like a batty octogenarian makes this one of the best apples I’ve ever had.

Though it makes you wonder, how many other apples are out there that we don’t know about? Maybe I’m wrong, but my heart tells me there are probably at least 10 or 20 other existing species out there, heirloom varieties many of us have never tasted that are just as good or better. I wonder whether all the effort that’s gone in to creating this “next big thing” wouldn’t be better served exposing consumers to what’s already out there?

That being said, the good news is that the co-operative growing the apples claims to use sustainable practices and is made up of “family farms”. Since the co-operative is limited and the apple copyrighted, it may provide a way for some farmers to make a living. Finding a successful model for more family farms to succeed is something I can get behind.

The bad news is if you want your own stash to try, the apple isn’t supposed to be released until Fall 2009. In the meantime, if you need a fix, stay with the Coca-Cola, because as you probably know, crack is whack