The varieties ‘Red Delicious’ and ‘Golden Delicious’ put Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co. on the map many, many years ago. Both were varieties sent to the nursery by a grower, which Stark Bro’s then, in turn, grew and sold. So it’s quite fitting that the two newest releases by the nursery – ‘Stark Ruby Darling’ and ‘Stark Scarlet Crush’ were sent to the nursery from a longtime customer, who found them exciting.
In fact, this grower from central Illinois experimented with crosses and would sell the fruit at farmers’ markets. As the fruit fared well, he sent some of his ‘Honeycrisp’ crosses to Stark Bro’s, says Ken Lane, Chief Marketing Officer. Two of those turned out to be ‘Ruby Darling’ and ‘Scarlet Crush.’
’Scarlet Crush’ is by ‘Pink Lady’ with notes of citrus to go along with the sweetness, juiciness, and sap of the ‘Honeycrisp.’ Fruits are pink or rose, with a uniform, conical shape that nears around 3 inches. ‘Scarlet Crush’ harvests as early as late September.
Ruby Darling’ is by ‘Gala’ with large, 3- to 4-inch red fruits. ‘Ruby Darling’ offers a sweet crunchy fruit. Tree growth is open and spreading and has been known to set large crops. It harvests in early October.
“‘Scarlet Crush’ inherited more of the ‘Pink Lady’ characteristics in the tree. It is more of a vigorous, upright grower with some spread to it,” says Sarah DePass, Product Development Manager for Stark Bro’s “’Ruby Darling’ has more of the Honeycrisp look to it, it is a darker, fuller red. It pulls more of the Gala out of it.”
DePass says although ‘Scarlet Crush’ and ‘Ruby Darling’ have not been fully tested for disease resistance, what she’s seen in the orchard is no susceptibility to cedar apple rust or fire blight.
“We’re not seeing any of the weaknesses that ‘Honeycrisp’ has like the foliar diseases and the calcium deficiencies, the bitter pit,” DePass says.
DePass and Lane said they found by accident during Brix testing, both apples resist browning.
Both varieties are being eyed as alternatives to ‘Honeycrisp’ in southern states, with more testing being done to see how the varieties fare. “I did get notes from the grower that the fruit ripens evenly and the fruit holds well to the tree; that makes it good for mechanical harvest. Depending on the year, you can get it in two to three pickings, on average.”
“For the apples themselves, we know we’ve got better vigor further south than typical ‘Honeycrisp’ and we’re pushing the envelope this year to see how much further south we can go with that,” Lane says. “It’s a good apple in zones 5 and 6, which is a bulk of the market.”
Orders for both varieties are being taken for 2019 trees. As far as future releases from Stark Bro’s, Lane says they’re looking to get back what the nursery was known for.
“We’re looking to do more of these [grower varieties]. Whether it’s some interesting crosses out there in the pipeline for future years, or there are some growers who want to get their apples to us for the same type of thing — to give them a national distribution with a great brand– we’re looking to do those things,” he says.