The short and sweet SweeTango season is almost here.
Growers from the Columbia River basin in Washington state to the shores of Lake Ontario in upstate New York are tending to a tantalizing crop of SweeTango apples.
“We’re looking forward to a great harvest this fall,” said Tim Byrne, president of Next Big Thing, the cooperative of orchards that grows SweeTango. “We know our fans are eager to get their hands on SweeTango – and we’re doing all we can to make sure we deliver the best fruit we can.”
Exactly when will the harvest start? Since growing premium apples is as much art as science, there’s no telling for sure.
Harvest season varies by region. SweeTango growers are spread across Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and Nova Scotia – areas with differing climates that affect the growing season.
The first SweeTango apples off the trees will be in Washington, with harvest starting sometime in mid-August. That means SweeTango apples will be in grocery stores in the western U.S. around Labor Day.
Next up will be orchards in the Midwest and New York, with SweeTango apples hitting stores in the central and eastern parts of the U.S. around the second week of September. Canadian stores will see SweeTango about 10 days after that.
This year’s crop is shaping up to be the largest yet. As apple lovers know, SweeTango is a relatively new variety that started rolling out a few years ago. The trees that produce SweeTango are continuing to mature, which translates into larger annual harvests.
Plus, the weather has cooperated this year – especially in Washington State, Michigan and Nova Scotia. New York and Minnesota had a late spring, resulting in a later bloom, but overall the trees are doing fine.
“The crop looks incredible,” said Brianna Shales of Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, Wash. “Last year was great, but this year will be even better.”
Shales said mature trees will produce fruit that delivers a complex blend of sweet and tart flavors. In the meantime, the apples are sizing up nicely on the trees and color is coming along.
“We expect high sugars with a complex flavor profile thanks to great support from Mother Nature,” Shales said.
The weather in Washington this summer has been particularly favorable for apple growing. The trees love the warm days and cool nights.
Across the continent, the weather’s been great, too, says Gerry VanOostrum of Canard Orchards in Canard, Nova Scotia. VanOostrum said Canard Orchards doesn’t have a huge crop, but that the quality of their SweeTango apples looks excellent. “The season got off to a slow start, but since we have had adequate rainfall and lots of heat,” he said.
The next step in the process for VanOostrum and Canard Orchards is to begin hand thinning the crop, which will help increase the fruit size and improve its quality. VanOostrum has faith that they will be seeing some truly delectable apples in a few weeks.
“This has the potential to be our best crop to date,” he said.