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Apple breeders at the University of Minnesota have announced a new apple: 'kudos'


And now a new apple - not an Apple product or device, an actual apple you can hold in your hand and gobble, which is not recommended for the new iPhone. David Bedford is an apple breeder at the University of Minnesota, where the horticultural department has been breeding apples, including the Honeycrisp, for more than a century. They've now announced their 29th varietal. It is called Kudos. Kudos to you, Mr. Bedford. Thanks so much.

DAVID BEDFORD: Well, thank you. Great pleasure to be with you. And fun to talk about apples always for me.

SIMON: What's it taste like?

BEDFORD: (Laughter) Oh, boy. Where do I start? Well...

SIMON: Don't tell me chicken, OK?

BEDFORD: No, I will not do that. Half of its parentage is Honeycrisp. What we've captured there is the texture of Honeycrisp, that sort of explosive crispness that just breaks in your mouth. And I always say a good Honeycrisp apple, you should almost have to eat hanging over a sink. You know, it's just that juicy. And then we used another Minnesota variety named Zestar as the other parent. And Zestar has a little more full, robust flavor, I guess, than Honeycrisp. And, you know, when it's fully ripe, we almost get a little bit of a tropical flavor from it.

SIMON: Parents - is that how you think of apples?

BEDFORD: We do. We do, yeah, just like our own children. And as in - as with our own children, we have the best of hopes for them when we make these crosses for new varieties. But the percentage of success is a bit lower with apples than I think with children, probably.

SIMON: How do you make a new apple?

BEDFORD: Well, it's basic sexual propagation, just like with animals and people. It's basically choosing two parents, and then in the case of apples, we cover the flowers of the parent that we're going to use as the female parent. We cover those flowers so that when they open in the spring, the bees won't do their job. We want to put our pollen on and not their pollen. We'll take those bags off just for a few minutes when the flowers are open. We'll put our pollen on, and the bags go back on. And if all goes well, that fertilization that we've done will turn into apples, and in those apples will be the seeds that will be the hybrid between the two parents.

SIMON: Totally personal question - do you eat apples at home?

BEDFORD: Well, yes.

SIMON: Or do you just say I had that at the office?

BEDFORD: Yeah, not during the apple season. In the peak of the season, we have to taste somewhere around the neighborhood of 500 apples a day. When I come home, no more apples needed for sure. But the rest of the season, yes, yeah, I still am a confirmed lifelong apple eater.

SIMON: Can people get Kudos all over the country now, or do we have to wait?

BEDFORD: Unfortunately, no. I can't remember if I mentioned that it's been 22 years since we did the original breeding. So now we're at the first stage of release, and that means that the trees are being planted by the commercial orchards. So that will be about three to four years before they'll have fruit on those trees, and then the consumers can buy them. But unfortunately, we're just a little ahead of the curve for the actual tasting.

SIMON: That's a long gestation period, isn't it?

BEDFORD: (Laughter) The apple breeding game is more of a marathon than a sprint. You can spend a lifetime almost developing an apple. And then even after the apple is developed and released, it's quite commonly another 10 to 15 years before it becomes well known in the marketplace. So we have to plan ahead, and hopefully we can predict what the public will like in the future. And I think with Honeycrisp, it worked.

SIMON: David Bedford, apple breeder at the University of Minnesota, thanks so much for being with us.

BEDFORD: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.