Well, the U of M has done it again. If you thought the Honeycrisp was good, wait until you try Zestar! First, a little background on the U of M’s Fruit Breeding program: It dates back as far as 1878. According to an article on MPR.org, of the 15,000 trial breeds being grown out at the Arboretum, only 1 tree will be named and released to the public. WOW, huh? Some of the most famous apples to come out of the U’s program are: Haralson (probably the best pie-baking apple out there still), Fireside, Sweet Sixteen, Regent, Honeygold, and of course the Honeycrisp!
The Zestar! (the exclamation point is part of the trademarked name) is unique because it is a hardy early apple, something that’s been tough to come by in the past. It matures in August and is available in early September. So how would you describe the Zestar!’s taste? The U describes it as tart with a hint of brown sugar. Not hard or soft, but consistently firm. One breeder described it as, “fresh apple cider with a bit more zip”. This hardy apple has a two and a half month storage life and is great for baking as well.
Speaking of baking, that’s exactly what Nick and I decided to do with it. We purchased our Zestar! apples at the St. Paul Farmer’s market (and happened to run into a few friends in the process!) and then came home to bake the delicious pie you see above. Yum! I hope this inspires you to get out and try a Zestar!