My wife and I were visiting with another couple this week over dinner, and the hot topic was their first kiss.
No, not that first kiss, but the First Kiss apple.
Our couple friends had recently attended the Minnesota State Fair and the First Kiss was among the apples featured at the state fair. The tart and juicy apple wowed them.
Knowing that my world revolves around fresh produce in some fashion, they asked me if the apple had entered my orbit.
But of course, I said. First Kiss — known as the Rave outside of Minnesota — is getting plenty of attention in The Packer.
I was aware the First Kiss apple was developed by the apple breeding team at the University of Minnesota. The University of Minnesota, in a news release recounting the history of the variety, said First Kiss dates back to the late 1990s when UMN’s apple breeders David Bedford and Jim Luby set out to breed an apple with the taste and texture of a ‘Honeycrisp’ that would be ready to harvest by Labor Day weekend.
In that effort, they crossed Honeycrisp, known for its juicy texture, with an early ripening variety from the University of Arkansas known as ‘AA44.’
“We’re excited for Minnesotans to get their first taste of First Kiss this fall,” said Jim Luby, UMN professor of Horticultural Science, said in the release. “Through two decades of evaluating hundreds of crosses and thousands of trees, First Kiss distinguished itself throughout our research and trials as a superior, early fall apple.”
Our friends Scott and Caroline weren’t the only state fair visitors impressed with First Kiss. Minnesota state legislator Rob Ecklund tweeted: “My favorite State Fair treat was the First Kiss apple developed by our University of Minnesota! Congrats on continuing your great line of outstanding apples. Can the tradition get any better!”
Researchers at the University of Minnesota, according to the school, have been developing and evaluating apple varieties since 1878. That is many Minnesota state fairs ago, no doubt — the first state fair in Minnesota was just a few years earlier, in 1859.
In fact, First Kiss marks the 27th apple to be released by the breeding program; 18 of those 27 are still available today, including the highly vaunted Honeycrisp and the up-and-comer SweetTango.
Like our apple-loving friends, do you Rave about your First Kiss?
Remember, apples grown out-of-state are part of an exclusive license agreement with Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, Wash., and will be marketed as Rave. Only apples grown in Minnesota will be marketed as First Kiss apples. Rave / First Kiss (MN55 cultivar) are registered trademarks of the University of Minnesota.
Whatever you call it, reliable early buzz says this variety is another winner.