The apple industry has been calling them the NY1 and NY2 apples for a couple of years, but on Aug. 1, Cornell University announced that after a year of rigorous consumer testing, the two new apple varieties developed in partnership with the New York Apple Growers (NYAG) now have official names. They are “SnapDragon” and “RubyFrost.”
An Aug. 12 article in the Cornell Chronicle titled SnapDragon and RubyFrost are new apple varieties, authored by Amanda Garris, Ph.D., communications officer for Cornell New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, stated that the new names were revealed by Jeff Crist, vice chairman of the NYAG board of directors, at a field day at the NYSAES, where Cornell breeder Susan Brown developed the varieties.
Garris’ article quoted Mark Russell, an apple grower and NYAG member, as saying, “SnapDragon is a great name for this apple because consumers found its crispy texture and sweet flavor so appealing.” Russell anticipates it will be a popular apple for snacking, especially for children.
The SnapDragon gets its juicy crispness from its Honeycrisp parent, and it has a spicy-sweet flavor that was a big hit with taste-testers. Brown recognized its promise and fast-tracked it for commercialization.
Garris’ article also quotes Brown, saying, “I remember my very first bite of SnapDragon. The taste, the crispness and the juiciness impressed us. Retailers will appreciate its other qualities as well, because although SnapDragon’s harvest window starts relatively early — in late September — its long storage and shelf life means retailers may be able to offer it with consistent quality for a longer time than the Honeycrisp.”
The RubyFrost, which ripens later in the fall and stores well, will provide a boost of vitamin C well into winter. Brown expects it will be popular with fans of Empire and Granny Smith.
“I think juicy and refreshing when I eat a RubyFrost,” said Russell. “It’s a fascinating apple, with a beautiful skin and a nice sugar-acid balance, but to me the crisp juiciness is rewarding every time. I don’t know how to express the idea of juice in a name, but ‘frost’ captures its refreshing quality.”
Garris also noted that both varieties have been a decade in the making, and how they’ve gone to market is a first for the Cornell apple-breeding program and the New York apple industry. Historically, public universities have developed new apple breeds and released them to the industry freely. But the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act gave universities the right to retail the intellectual property rights for their research, with limited plant-based royalties.
In May 2010, Cornell forged a partnership for a “managed release” with NYAG, a new industry group, to establish an exclusive licensing agreement in North America for the two apple varieties. Growers pay royalties on trees purchased, acreage planted and fruit produced. The income is used to market the new varieties and support Cornell’s apple-breeding program.
The first trees were planted in orchards in 2011, and today 400-acres of them are growing across New York. According to NYAG, the still-young trees will produce a limited crop this year, but intrepid consumers can search out SnapDragon and RubyFrost at select NYAG farm stands across the state.
Garris said that by 2015, the varieties will be vying for space in grocery stores among today’s highly popular varieties such as the Empire, Gala and Honeycrisp.
She added that greater quality, better storage and disease and insect resistance have long been the goals of Cornell’s apple breeding program. Besides SnapDragon and RubyFrost, Cornell has released 66 apple varieties since the late 1890s, including the popular Cortland, Macoun, Empire and Jonagold.