It's known on the patent as WA 38, and consumers are about to start hearing a lot about this new apple under its more marketing-friendly name: the Cosmic Crisp. At the California Sunday Magazine, the story by Brooke Jarvis has a headline that explains the fuss: The apple, coming to market this fall after more than 20 years of research, "could disrupt an entire industry." Which means that if the apple lives up to its hype, it could become the modern-day equivalent of the once-ubiquitous Red Delicious. Except it will taste a lot better. The apple is not genetically modified or anything like that. It hails from the breeding program at Washington State University, where it first emerged in 1997. That may seem like a long time ago, but, as the story explains, it's actually a pretty short period to get a new apple to market—test trees must mature, after all.
"In the nervous lead-up to the launch, everyone from nursery operators to marketers wanted me to understand the crazy scope of the thing: the scale of the plantings, the speed with which mountains of commercially untested fruit would be arriving on the market, the size of the capital risk," writes Jarvis. "People kept saying things like 'unprecedented,' 'on steroids,' 'off the friggin’ charts,' and 'the largest launch of a single produce item in American history.'" For now, only growers in Washington state are allowed to grow the apple, and even they had to win a "lottery" for the luxury of taking a gamble with precious acreage. The full story is worth a read, as Jarvis traces the history of all things apple, including how elements of texture (crispy, juicy, firm) combine with those of flavor (sugar and acidity) to produce a winning variety. (The Gala recently dethroned Red Delicious as the most popular apple in the US.)