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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Autumn is here and the orchards are alive with the sound of - mmm, the pleasure of a good apple. This one is a Honeycrisp. It's sweet, tart, and it's just the right amount of crunch. It also makes you look cool, because this year Honeycrisps are all the rage.

To find out why, we've called self-proclaimed apple evangelist Ben Watson. Hi. How are you?

Mr. BEN WATSON (Apple Evangelist): Great. How are you, Andrea?

SEABROOK: Great. Tell me, why are Honeycrisps now the new big thing?

Mr. WATSON: Honeycrisps are one of the new apple varieties that have just come out in the past 15 years or so that have all the sort of qualities of a good commercial apple. It has a lot of good taste, it's very sweet, very crunchy.

SEABROOK: It's a gorgeous apple.

Mr. WATSON: Oh, it's a beautiful apple. Yeah.

SEABROOK: And let me confess that I have not been in my life an apple fan.

Mr. WATSON: Well, you haven't had much to chose from if you, like most people, buy them in the supermarket. You know, until recent years people thought of apples in the supermarket as being those Red Delicious that were wonderful to look at and almost always disappointing, I guess is the nice word for it.

SEABROOK: Yeah...

Mr. WATSON: When you bit into them, they sort of tasted like sawdust.

SEABROOK: So this Honeycrisp is not the first apple fad?

Mr. WATSON: You know, even before we got to the modern era, there were, back in the 18th century everybody was wild for different kinds of apples. And we had commercial varieties like Baldwins. Benjamin Franklin sent over to the U.S. to get Newtown Pippin apples, which are from Newtown, Queens.

SEABROOK: Wow. I know that when I make pies, apple pies, that I like to use Granny Smiths for their taste, but they're not very good baking apples.

Mr. WATSON: I think that people are starting to rediscover what previous generations already knew, that different apples are good for different things. An apple like a Wealthy or Gravenstein apple would be an excellent one for pies. Northern Spy is an old variety that's very good for pies later in the season.

SEABROOK: I've never heard of these varieties you're talking about. Where do you get those?

Mr. WATSON: You have to go out to orchards often to get them. And there are still a lot of small and medium-sized orchards that are growing these old varieties of apples. And they really are wonderful. Some of my favorite apples have a real distinctive taste that you won't taste in the Honeycrisp or other varieties that are meant for sort of a mass market.

There are ones like Opalescent, which has almost a balsamic kind of a taste to it. And there's a very rare apple today that was once better known from the town over from where I live, called the Granite Beauty. It has a unique, spicy kind of a taste, almost like cardamom. And then it finishes off and it sort of tastes like sweet fruit drops.

SEABROOK: Mr. Watson, are you an apple snob?

Mr. WATSON: I am. I'm a self-confessed apple snob.

SEABROOK: Ben Watson's an amateur cider maker and the author of Cider: Hard and Sweet. He joined us from his home in Francis Town in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire. Thank you so much.

Mr. WATSON: Thanks, Andrea.

SEABROOK: This is NPR News.

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