Cordera, Pink Luster, and Firecracker all have their own compelling attributes.

By Mike Pomranz
September 14, 2020
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Few things are as American as apple pie, and when baking this fall, you’ll have three new American-created apple varieties to choose from. But feel free to eat them fresh off the tree, too: All three varieties were specifically bred to be delicious just the way they are.

Susan Brown and Kevin Maloney with new apple varietal in Geneva Orchard
| Credit: Jason Koski

Ithaca, New York’s Cornell University—located in the state’s apple dense Finger Lakes region—is known for its apple-producing process. Billed as the “oldest apple breeding program in the U.S.,” their College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has released at least 70 newly bred apple varieties since 1880… three of which were released this month: NY56, NY73, and NY109. Or as they are called on store shelves: Cordera, Pink Luster, and Firecracker.

Cordera apples
| Credit: Kevin Maloney

Cornell explains that these new varieties were created to give growers “what today’s consumers want—crunch, complexity and a new twist on an American classic.” But the benefits go well beyond novelty. For instance, Cordera is resistant to the fungal disease apple scab which can be problematic in New England. “For us, disease resistance makes the performance of NY 56 stand out in our orchard,” Mark Bowker, orchard crop expert at Wegmans Organic Farm, said in the announcement. “Of course, it always comes down to flavor, and we think it has that too.”

Firecracker apples
| Credit: Kevin Maloney

Meanwhile, the explosively named Fireceraker apple is billed as a “triple threat,” said to be perfect for eating, baking, and cider-making. “Firecracker has a partial russet skin, and it has a unique combination of acidity and sweetness that produces really complex and evolving flavors,” Susan Brown, the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science, explained. “It’s ideal for anyone who wants to go on a culinary adventure.”

Pink Luster apples
| Credit: Kevin Maloney

Finally, beyond its “pink-red skin, crisp texture and juiciness,” Pink Luster—which was literally 23 years in the making—is touted for its relatively early mid-September ripening period making it “well-suited for on-farm sales and U-pick operations.” “Some of the visitor comments we have heard are that it has beautiful color, medium to large size making it fun and easy to pick, wonderful mild tart flavor and very smooth enjoyable skin texture,” added John Halsey, owner of the New York’s Milk Pail U-Pick Farm.

Aiding in these new varieties' ability to catch on is that all three are an “open-release” to orchards across the country, meaning growers can dive right in without any licensing exclusivity. How do you like them apples?