Savor the Zest of Zestar!
Zestar! is a relatively “new” apple variety that was developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 1998. Perhaps you are familiar with Honeycrisp, another now famous apple also developed by the same breeding program a few years earlier?
This new variety is a very cold hardy (Zone 4), early apple that fills a unique niche in the scheme of apple growing. Most early apples do not store well nor are they crisp for more than a few days. Some earlier varieties such as Beacon or Yellow Transparent are great to eat the first day or two then quickly turn to mush. Zestar! is a great improvement as it is crispy and usually keeps for up to a month if refrigerated after harvest. It normally ripens late August-early September.
The flavor of Zestar! is described as sweet/tart. Those I have sampled were somewhat sweet, yet tangy. It is a very juicy apple that gets fairly large. The skin color is a mix of yellow with rose blush when ripe. The fruit is great to eat fresh and also works well for cooking. I have heard it makes a superior apple crisp, but unfortunately the few I picked last September were eaten fresh with just enough reserved for a pie. I can proudly state that the pie was outstanding and somehow seemed to vanish at light speed.
Zestar! should perform well throughout the state of Wisconsin. Its extreme cold hardiness along with its early ripening date will most benefit the short growing season areas of Central and Northern WI. People living in these areas previously had few apple varieties to choose from for success.
For 2012, Johnson’s Nursery will be offering semi-dwarf Zestar! in #5 containers. They are on Malling 7 rootstock. Plant one in your home orchard this year so you too can SAVOR THE ZEST OF ZESTAR!
Paul Schwabe is a salesman in our Contractor Sales division. He holds a degree in horticulture and will be writing about some of his favorite and underused plants.