Apples A (Akane) to Z (Zestar!)

Zestar! apples ready for picking at Norton Fruit Farm, Cheshire, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Zestar! apples ready for picking at Norton Brothers Fruit Farm,                             Cheshire, Connecticut (Bar Lois Weeks)

TWO APPLES now available at many New England orchards span the alphabet: Akane and Zestar! With mid-season varieties like McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, and Honeycrisp still a few weeks away, these varieties provide great early bursts of crisp apple flavor.

Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Akane (ah ‘kah neh) has balanced sweet-tart flavor with a hint of strawberry. A medium-sized, slightly conical apple, Akane is known for its excellent flavor and bright red skin. Its crisp white flesh is very juicy. It is good for baking as well as for fresh eating.

Akane’s distinctive strawberry flavor comes from its English heirloom parent, Worcester Pearmain. Its other parent, the American heirloom Jonathan, supplies much of Akane’s flavor and its distinctive red color.

The apple has several names, all referring to its color. Akane is the Japanese word for deep red. It is known as Tokyo Rose in Japan, and Primrouge in France. Akane was discovered in 1937 and released commercially in 1970.

Zestar! apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Zestar! apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

Zestar!, or Zesta, offers a little more sweetness than Akane, but it still has some tang. Zestar! is a medium-sized, round apple with patches of red over a yellow base. Its white flesh is crisp and juicy. A good all-purpose apple, its flavor and texture make Zestar! one of the best of the early season varieties, though it browns quickly when sliced.

Zestar! was developed at the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. Released in1999, it is a cross of another Minnesota apple, State Fair, with an unnamed, numbered seedling.

Like most early season apples, Akane and Zestar! only store well for a few weeks.

To find out who has Akane and Zestar!, visit our Apple Finder at

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WE WILL have several varieties of early season apples and some baked goods for sale at the New England Apples booth at this weekend’s Farm Fresh Festival at Wachusett Mountain, 499 Mountain Rd., Princeton, Massachusetts. Come by to get your early season apples, talk about the crop, ask questions, and pick up a brochure!

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, August 27, and Sunday, August 28.