in the garden apples

A light dusting of snow this morning sets the mood for some simple dried apple crafts. I spent an afternoon making some fall and holiday ornaments from this season’s abundant apple crop.

To dry apples for crafts, cut the apples in about 1/8-inch thick slices. (Notice the beautiful five-pointed star — or pentagram — in the center of the slices.) Brush with lemon juice for whiter color. Place the slices on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake in a 200 F oven for two to three hours. Turn the slices after an hour of drying. To add a lovely fragrance, sprinkle the slices with cinnamon if desired.

Use a toothpick or awl to poke a hole in the slice and tie with a small ribbon bow. These cute ornaments could be hung in the window, personalized with names written on them and used for Thanksgiving table cards or napkin ring decorations. They also make a special tag for gift wrap decorating.

My dried slices were made from Honeycrisp apples. I have one 10-year old Honeycrisp tree that hasn’t borne any fruit until this year. I was beginning to wonder why it wasn’t fruiting, but this year it produced a bumper crop. It yielded abundant apples to eat, bake, store and give to friends. If you have a Honeycrisp apple tree that isn’t bearing, be patient.

Honeycrisp apples were developed by the University of Minnesota’s fruit breeding program over 30 years ago and marketed to the public in 1997. The cells of Honeycrisp are larger than those of most apples giving it a fabulous flavor with an explosive crunch. It needs a cold climate to develop its sweet honey flavor and crisp texture. It commands a retail price twice that of Red Delicious apples. Since its introduction in 1991, millions of trees have been planted and the fruit is enjoyed by consumers all over the world.

The University of Minnesota develops new varieties of apples the old-fashioned way — with research scientists painstakingly cross-pollinating apple flowers manually. Zestar is a newer variety developed which is available to home gardeners. I have an 8-year old Zestar that is being stubborn about bearing a good crop of fruit. It has just had a handful of apples so far. I am being patient!

First Kiss is a new apple variety that has great parentage. It is a cross between the U of M’s Honeycrisp and AA44 — a variety from the University of Arkansas. First Kiss is an early-season apple that has excellent storage life. It inherited its crisp texture from Honeycrisp and early ripening from the AA44 variety and can be harvested beginning in mid-August. Commercial growers must obtain a license to grow this trademarked apple and trees will not be available for planting by home gardeners until the patent expires in 2034. 

Sharon Quale is a master gardener from central Minnesota. She may be reached at (218) 738-6060 or squale101@yahoo.com.