U Of Minn. Unfair In Not Letting Home Gardeners Grow New Apples

I’ve got a bone to pick with the University of Minnesota. As a rule, gardening is non-confrontational, unless you’re debating the proper way to pronounce peony. But the University of Minnesota has gone too far, and I think it’s time for a discussion.

I’m talking about their recently introduced apple variety named SweeTango, developed by their fruit breeding research program. Here are descriptions of what’s being called Minnesota’s hottest new apple:

  • SweeTango is described as an improved Honeycrisp, which is one of its parents, along with Zestar. It reportedly tastes even better than Honeycrisp, and ripens several weeks earlier.
  • U of Minn. describes it such: “It tastes like none other. It makes your taste buds dance with lively touches of citrus, honey and spice.”
  • It’s being called “the ideal apple; very crunchy, distinctly flavorful and incredibly juicy; the juice literally runs down your chin.”
  • In a Canadian taste-test of apples, SweeTango was ranked the best-tasting variety, beating dozens of others.
  • It stores well under refrigeration for three to four months.

Sounds like a wonderful apple to grow, and with its great reviews, what’s the problem? The problem is that we home gardeners can’t have it. If you’ve tried to locate a tree for your backyard, there’s a reason you can’t find one. The University of Minnesota won’t let you have one. They’ve started a new licensing program for “managed varieties.” They are allowing only a few chosen fruit orchards to have trees for the sole purpose of growing and selling the apple fruit. It appears that trees will not be produced and made available for home gardeners to buy and plant. The only way you’ll get a SweeTango apple is to go buy the fruit at a grocery store or market.

Now that’s just plain not very Minnesota nice. The University of Minnesota is a publicly funded land-grant college. The long-established land-grant philosophy was supposed to help us gardeners and farmers improve our lives with new innovations and techniques.

To add insult to injury, trees of these new “managed” apple varieties can only be grown by what are called “club members” – orchardists who are going to be selling the fruit. Sounds exclusive, and not very land-grant-like. We should all be able to buy and plant a SweeTango tree, even though we’re not members of the country club.

Fine, if research universities want to patent varieties and collect their royalties of $1.00 per tree, but to totally exclude the gardening public from growing these wonderful new apples is downright non-Midwestern. You might even call it rude.

6 Responses

  1. Jody Gerszewski

    Actually Don, I hate to make light of this but I think the pronounciation of clematis is more confrontational than peony. Seriously, great article as always. Thank you!

    1. Don Kinzler

      You’re right about clematis. I know the preferred is KLEM-uh-tis, but I’m still of the school that pronounces it klem-AT-us. The first pronunciation always sounds to me like one is “putting on airs.”

  2. Teri Smith

    I tasted this apple about a year ago and didn’t think it was all that great. Maybe I got a bad one because my friends think it is really good.

  3. Carol Madden

    I agree with what the University is doing ONLY if no public money has been used to develop this variety. If I remember correctly, there may be only 1 or 2 small seeds in this apple making it difficult to grow our own and in fact I did try to grow one from seed but it never sprouted. I have started Honey Crisp from seed and I put it out in my in ground nursery this past fall so I can keep an eye on its progress. I have been allergic to stone fruits along with apples until Sweet Tango came along and at $4.00/lb they are an expensive treat but very well worth biting in a crisp apple.

    1. Don Kinzler

      Hi. Unfortunately apple trees don’t come true from seed, and the offspring are usually inferior. That’s why apple trees are grafted, to preserve the good qualities of the carefully bred type. It would be nice if they were able to be seed-produced. Thanks.

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