Applehouse is mecca for apple devotees

Juicy, sweet and cool
Juicy, sweet and cool

The University of Minnesota's Horticultural Research Center at the Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen doesn't sound like the kind of place you'd want to visit on your weekends. But the items it produces--most famously the Honeycrisp apple--are a consistent draw, which is why we headed to the Arboretum's popular Applehouse this week.

Heaped inside were the freshest LaCrescent, Chestnut Crab, McIntosh, and Honeycrisp apples around, not to mention plenty of apple-centric products like apple butter, apple pies, and crisps courtesy of Emma Krumbees, and even caramel apple sticks for homemade treats. Visitors can buy first-quality, second-quality, and utility-grade apples in half pecks, pecks, or giant plastic sacks.

John Mazzarella has worked at the arboretum since 1995 and claims to have never gotten sick of apples ("I have gotten sick from eating too many, though."). He easily tackled every aggressive apple question we could sling at him

When is the best time to visit the Applehouse? Friday afternoon is when I'd say we're the most stocked. We're busiest on the weekends, though it really depends on the weather. If there's any rain people stay home.

What are the best apples for baking? Tart apples like the Haralson are better for cooking, because they counteract the sugar in things like crisps and pies.

Are Minnesotans apple ignorant? I think they're apple inexperienced rather than apple ignorant.

Is the Honeycrisp still the most popular apple? No, it's now the SweeTango, which has a lot more flavor. It has the tangy flavor of the Zestar! apple and the texture of the Honeycrisp.

If we blindfolded you and force-fed you apples, could you tell the difference between the varieties? By taste absolutely, by sight not as well.

Is Dave Bedford, inventor of the Honeycrisp apple, a rock star in the apple world? Certainly in Minnesota he is. He's a guru for the apple growers.

The AppleHouse, which is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through the end of October, is roughly1.5 miles west of the Arboretum entrance in Chanhassen on State Highway 5 and Rolling Acres Road. You can score a daily update of available apple varieties by calling the AppleHouse Hotline at 952.443.1409. For a pdf breaking down the estimated harvest dates of apples at the Applehouse, click here.

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