Chance seedling evolved into highly demanded KORU apple
In late September, the KORU apple was just finishing a successful 2017 import season from New Zealand. In the Eastern United States, the apple is marketed exclusively by New York Apple Sales in Glenmont, NY, which also produces the KORU in New York.
“U.S. KORU growers are anxiously awaiting the new domestic fall crop,” said Jim Allen, vice president of marketing for the leading apple grower, importer and shipper. Harvest was expected to begin in New York by Oct. 15.
The apple is also marketed on the West Coast by Oneonta Starr Ranch and Chelan Fresh Marketing in Washington state. Allen noted that in the west KORU harvesting began in early October.
In 2015, Coast to Coast Growers Cooperative, which comprises over 30 U.S. apple producers, was formed, bringing the import and growing rights to the U.S.
“Working together, the Coast to Coast Growers Cooperative group is increasing production to meet the growing demand for KORU,” added Allen. “The collaborative efforts of the cooperative enable us to approach the market place with joint promotions and to communicate a consistent message to our retailers.”
He added that this year’s domestic crop is so far exceeding expectations on color, size and apple quality.
Allen explained that the winter import program of KORU apples from New Zealand is a great way to build momentum on the variety.
“This not only allows retailers to bring in a new crop apple in late March, but also enables us to continue to expand our consumer base and to build demand for our fall harvest season,” said Allen.
The KORU had a humble beginning. The apple seedling was discovered in a New Zealand rose garden in 1994.
A chance seedling is an apple that grows from a rogue apple seed and will be a variety different from the seed. The Granny Smith apple is another example of a chance seedling.
A number of growers in New York are planting and growing KORU apples, for NYAS. In Western New York, its growers are Fish Creek Orchards, of which NYAS is a partner, and Zingler Farms.
“Crist Brothers Orchards, Porpiglia Farms, George W. Saulpaugh & Sons and Fix Brothers, all in the Hudson Valley, round out our New York production,” explained Allen. “New York’s superb growing climate, which is highly influenced by both Lake Ontario and the Hudson River, produce a high color and a very firm KORU. The sugar to acid balance in the apples provide a most enjoyable flavor profile.”
KORU apples grown in the west benefit from excellent growing conditions to produce large, hard fruit that matches the superb eating quality that lovers of the apple expect.
New York state presently has almost 300 acres planted, and growers have an aggressive planting schedule for the next five to seven years.
Washington growers are presently growing about 650 acres with more planting scheduled.
“God willing and weather permitting, annual production for U.S. grown KORU apples will exceed 1 million boxes by 2020,” stressed Allen. “The 2017 crop is pegged at around 70,000 to 80,000 cartons, but the volumes will jump drastically in 2018 to 2020.”
Allen noted that the KORU is named after a Maori word that symbolizes “new life, growth, strength and peace.”
This is appropriate considering that the apple was discovered as a chance seedling in a rose garden,” he said. “In order to survive it had to be strong enough to support its new life.”