Growers at Washington State University will release the long-awaited Cosmic Crisp after 22 years of breeding.
Credit: Brittany Wright

For more than two decades, apple breeders at Washington State University have been cultivating a new variety of red apple referred to as WA 38. This fall, WA 38, otherwise known as the Cosmic Crisp, will be available in grocery stores. The cosmic crisp is a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Enterprise apples and is characterized by its "unusually firm, crisp and juicy texture," according to breeders. Breeders also claim that the Cosmic Crisp has a unique combination of sweetness and tartness that is unlike any other apple on the market.

Other notable characteristics of the cosmic crisp include its even red skin, non-browning flesh, and longer shelf life. Breeders certainly feel confident in the success of this variety; Cosmic Crisp is being launched with a reported $10.5 million marketing budget in partnership with a theater production of Johnny Appleseed and social media influencers.

Historically, the most expensive, premium apples were those that were uniform in size, shape, and color. Many varieties of apples were bred to showcase those qualities, but ultimately lacked flavor and juiciness. WA 38 challenges those conventions as breeders attempted to create a variety that was near perfect on the interior and exterior. When breeding a new apple, growers also wanted to ensure that it offered an improvement for farmers, packer-shippers, and consumers, compared to other varieties.

The apple breeding program at Washington State University began in 1994 as a way to develop new varieties of apples that are suitable in Washington's dry climate. According to WSU, the state produces more than sixty percent of apples for the U.S., but the challenging climate throughout the state has made it difficult for certain varieties to sustain long-term. The Cosmic Crisp offers an opportunity for Washington state apple growers to thrive once again.


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