By a more than two-to-one margin, shoppers at the University District Farmers Market prefer Sweet Sixteen apples to any other varietal - with the possible exception of the ever-popular Honey Crisp.
Honey Crisps didn't compete in last month's Applelooza sampling, but the tasting featured 17 different locally-grown varietals, including Spitzenbergs, Winter Bananas, Ruby Jons and Keepsakes. More than 200 people filed votes, with nearly a quarter of them favoring the Sweet Sixteen.
According to Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance director Chris Curtis, the Sweet Sixteen was developed at the University of Minnesota in 1978 by researchers who crossed the Northern Spy with the Minnesota 447, or Frostbite. While the Frostbite is best when pressed for cider, tree sellers describe the Sweet Sixteen as "crisp and juicy, with an exotic yellow flesh and a very sweet, unusual sugar cane or spicy cherry candy flavor."
The sweetness may account for the apple's local victory: Curtis said staffers noticed West Coasters prefer sweet apples, while native East Coasters like their apples tart. Jonagold, the slightly sour Golden Delicious-and-Jonathan cross that became an East Coast lunchbox staple after its 1953 New York introduction, didn't receive a single vote.
"I guess taste is determined by what you grow up with...Washington orchards seem to grow what folks want here - which is sweet," she said.
The standard-bearer in the sweet category may be the Honeycrisp, the subject of a separate informal study. Five growers submitted Honeycrisps for blind tasting, with Jerzy Boyz beating its nearest competitor by more than 30 votes.