David Bedford is the apple king of Minnesota

You may not know David Bedford's name, but you've certainly tasted his work. As one of the inventors of the Honeycrisp apple--also known as Minnesota's official state fruit--his job entails tasting (sometimes up to 500 apples in a day) and creating the popular crispy lunchbox staples. So how does the guru eat his apples when he's not at work? Waldorf style--and so can you.

1. What's it like to be a "world changer" for creating the Honeycrisp, the "iPod of apples?" The iPod of that's probably a little more than I'm ready to address! First of all I have to clarify that I am only part of the University of Minnesota team that developed and introduced the Honeycrisp apple. The whole process took over 30 years from the original breeding to its release in 1991. Fortunately for Jim Luby (the other co-developer) and me, our contributions came in the later part of that cycle...the glory portion! It's been a great thrill for us to watch Honeycrisp become so popular in Minnesota and beyond, and we still love to get Honeycrisp stories from apple lovers across the country.

2. What's your favorite apple-centric food dish? Least favorite? My favorite apple dish is Honeycrisp Waldorf salad. By using Honeycrisp instead of other apples in a Waldorf salad the dish takes on an entirely different personality. The exceptional crispness of Honeycrisp transforms a ho-hum Waldorf salad into an exciting eating experience...the apple takes its rightful place as the center of attention. I also like fresh grated lime zest and nutmeg mixed in the salad to highlight the Honeycrisp flavor. (see recipe at the end of the interview below!). I prefer not to remove the skin of the apple when making this recipe (or for most other uses) since it contains the highest concentration of vitamins and nutrients of the entire apple. I also prefer Minnesota grown Honeycrisp for their more consistent good texture and flavor (after all it was developed for our Minnesota climate). The Minnesota grown fruit is readily available at local orchards and farmers markets.

My least favorite apple-eating experience involves eating any apple (most often Red Delicious) that is soft and mealy. As a child, apples were my least favorite fruit due to numerous bad experiences with overripe Red Delicious.

3. Do you ever get sick of eating apples? Although I love apples, I do get tired of eating them many days during the apple season. As part of my job I must often taste up to 500 to 600 apples each day, so my tastebuds are often a little burned out by the end of a big day. The acid content of the apples determine how many fruit I can sample in a given day. However, I find that even at the end of a day of tasting I can still appreciate an apple with an exceptional flavor such as the Zestar! apple (exclamation point is part of the name). Also, a Pearson's Salted Nut Roll seems to have the perfect salty-sweet balance to sooth my inflamed tastebuds.

4. What are the hallmarks of a great apple? What characteristics do you prize? I consider the "eating experience" to be the most important part of a great apple, and I am convinced that texture and the flavor are the two most important parts of a great eating experience...everything else is just window dressing. For me, it's very difficult to have a great eating experience with a soft apple (recall my childhood memories of Red Delicious). Honeycrisp has set a new standard for what an apple texture should be...we call it "explosively crisp." Apple flavors can range from sweet to tart, but a good flavor is almost always the result of a balance of sugar and acid. For example, some people may think that they would like an apple with almost no acid, but in reality that results in an insipid flavor somewhat like sugar water (Red Delicious!). Within the world of apple breeding we are working on apples that have flavors such as cherry, clove, and anise.

5. What's the next big apple? Will we ever see a phenomenon like the Honeycrisp again? It's always hard to predict the success of a new apple when it is first released, but the two newest apples from the university's breeding program appear to have great promise. The first of these, the SweeTango apple (Minneiska variety), is the result of a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar! It is being grown by approximately 100 orchards in Minnesota. It is an early-season variety that can be found right now at local orchards, farmers markets and grocery stores but only for a very limited time. Its crisp texture was inherited from Honeycrisp and its well-balanced flavor from Zestar! Early response indicates that consumers enjoy the SweeTango apple very much.

The second new U of M apple to watch for is the SnowSweet apple (Wildung cultivar). This variety ripens in early October and features a sweet, rich flavor that is reminiscent of, but better than, its parent Fireside. It has a snowy white flesh that resists browning for many hours after being cut making it ideal for salads or fresh slicing. Although it has not yet been as widely planted in Minnesota, it will be available at some local orchards later this fall.

Honeycrisp Waldorf Salad

SALAD 2 cups chopped Honeycrisp apples (with skin on) 11/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice 1/3 cup chopped celery 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries 3 tablespoons (or more) chopped walnuts

DRESSING 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt. (low-fat or fat-free may be used)

1/4 cup frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip), thawed (low fat or fat-free may be used) 1/2 teaspoon grated lime peel 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To make the salad: Place the apples in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with the lime juice, then toss. Add the celery, raisins, and walnuts.

To make the dressing: Place the yogurt in a small bowl. Add the whipped topping and gently fold in. Then gently fold in the lime peel and nutmeg.

Add the dressing to the apple mixture. Gently fold in until the apple mixture is coated.

Makes 6 side-dish servings

Adapted by David Bedford from a recipe in Healthy Homestyle Cooking by Evelyn Tribole

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