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How to pick the perfect apple

Step 1: Avoid the Red and Delicious, and pick up a Honeycrisp.

Brent Hofacker via Shutterstock

The air is crisper. The shift from iced coffee back to regular has begun, as has the pumpkin spice onslaught. Kids are back in school. And mountains of Halloween candy have started to dominate the shelves at your local drugstore.

Fall is here.

And regardless of how you feel about sweater weather and colorful foliage, there is one thing about fall that’s absolutely indisputable: It is also apple season.

Sure, because of modern-day advances in technology, storage, and shipping, the average supermarket offers several varieties of apple — from the tart green Granny Smith to the horrific fraud that is the Red Delicious — year-round. But it’s only during the few precious months of fall that some of the best apples out there thrive.

In particular, fall is the best time of year to enjoy the Honeycrisp apple.

While other types of apples are better for baking, the Honeycrisp is still the apple world’s premier variety when it comes to raw eating. Hands down, the first step toward picking out the best apple, in this reporter’s opinion, is to make sure it’s a Honeycrisp.

There’s an entire industry devoted to creating new types of apples, and one of its goals is to one-up the Honeycrisp, which was scientifically bred to provide a better-tasting, more enjoyable raw eating experience. Though other varieties like the Zestar and the SweeTango have come close, it’s hard to match the Honeycrisp’s sweet, refreshing crunch.

To select the best one, according to Dr. James Luby at the University of Minnesota (where the Honeycrisp was created), the key isn’t to look at how red it is but rather to look at how green and yellow it is. Each Honeycrisp apple has an undertone, a slight blush of green in its pink-red skin. The best Honeycrisps, say Luby, are the ones whose green blush exhibits a slight yellowness. If there’s too much yellow, that means the apple is far too ripe.

Since Luby gave me this tip, I’ve eaten dozens of delicious Honeycrisps.

Another important tip, in terms of enjoying apple season to its fullest, is to keep your apples cold — no matter the variety. Apples can continue to ripen if left on your counter, so you should always, always refrigerate them, or risk them turning into mealy, mushy impostors of their former selves.