The crunchy, red Kudos is the 29th apple variety released by the University of Minnesota.
“We want just the perfect apple,” said university apple breeder David Bedford.
Bedford said they crossed the Honeycrisp, “which is certainly known for its crisp, explosively juicy texture,” and the Zestar, “known for its rich, full flavor, excellent for fresh eating and baking.”
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The Kudos shares those characteristics with an added tropical twist. The variety took 22 years to breed and develop. Most apple varieties take 20 to 30 years; the Honeycrisp took 30. During the process, the apple breeders cross the parent apples and generate thousands of seeds.
“Only one out of 10,000 of those seeds, which become trees, is good enough to be named and released,” Bedford said. “A lot of the time we spend in those 22 years is throwing away the ne’er-do-wells, and the almost-goods and the pretty-darn goods, but only a few of them are good enough to really be released. And that’s the case with Kudos.”
For an apple variety to be ready for release, it must meet 20 different criteria, including taste, texture and color.
“Boy, if it doesn’t have that texture and flavor, it’s out for us. We just have no tolerance for mushy apples. We don’t have any tolerance for poorly flavored apples,” Bedford said.
Kudos trees are hardy up to Zone 4, which includes most of central and southern Minnesota, and the fruit ripens in late September. The apple variety won’t be available in stores for three to four years, however, as commercial orchards must be planted and the trees must mature. Bedford says the apples will be available to try at orchards in about two years.
The Kudos is an “open variety,” which means growers can purchase trees from University of Minnesota-licensed nurseries. In 2022, the university released the variety to nurseries for propagation.
The university’s apple-breeding program is in its 115th year. It’s one of only three public breeding programs left in the U.S., Bedford said, along with Cornell University and Washington State University.
“There’s just a handful of us out there trying to save the world from mediocre apples,” Bedford said.