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Zestar!® apple

Malus domestica

Zestar! is a early season apple that comes from the University of Minnesota breeding program (trademarked, USPP#11367).  It is a good solid early apple, with a sweet-tart taste and a hint of brown sugar flavoring.  The apple is medium in size, round, with red cover over 60-75% of the skin depending on sun exposure, and yellow undercolor.  The flesh is white with a crisp texture, and while a nice texture for cooking the apple does tend to brown fairly quickly.

For an early season apple the taste is very good, and it also has a good shelf-life of a couple months.  It is one of the parents of the new popular US variety, Sweetango.

Zestar! was developed for cold-hardiness, and performs best in cool climates. It is hardy down to zone 4.

Zestar! apple identification images

All images copyright Orange Pippin unless otherwise stated.

  • Zestar!
  • Zestar!

USDA identification images for Zestar!

The identification paintings in the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection span the years 1886 to 1942.

    Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705.

    Parents and other ancestors of this variety

    Offspring of this variety

    Visitor reviews

    • 25 Mar 2024 
      Located on the East side of the coast range of Benton Co. OR. We have over 35 different trees to choose from and this one is our favorite. Growing from a standard tree ordered from St. Lawerance Nursery in N.Y. Consistently great tasting good looking full-sized thin-skinned pommes. Fast-growing robust tree and no sign of health issues here. Highly recommended.
    • 10 Sep 2018  NY, United States
      Tried my first ever Zestar! today and what a treat it was. The flavor was super sweet and with just a hint of tart mixed in. Flesh was more flavorful then I was expecting with this apple. I planted 5 of these this past spring on B9 and I'm really excited about trying one fresh off the tree in the next couple of years. Highly recommend this apple.
    • 06 Nov 2016  CA / HUMBOLDT COUNTY, United States
      This is one of my favorite early apples I'm growing in my trial orchard in coastal NW California. Sweet and rich flavored with nice crunch and texture.
    • 29 Aug 2016  ILLINOIS, United States
      Bought at Edward's Apple Orchard Northern Illinois. Excellent Taste with sharp sweet taste. Highly recommend.
    • 09 Sep 2015  ONTARIO, Canada
      I first purchased zestars at a local farmers' market last year and loved them. This year's apples are even better. Lots of tartness with a touch of brown sugar and a good crunch. I eat alot of apples and this year's zestars are amongst my favourites.
    • 02 Sep 2014  NEW JERSEY, United States
      Zestar is tart/sweet juicy. The crisp but not hard texture is just perfect. Purchased these in Delaware County NY 08/31/14. One of the first early apples available at the co-op. Wonderful.
    • 21 Oct 2013  MN, United States
      Kurt - If you just bought it and ate it (close to the date of your review), the fruit was likely picked upwards of 6 weeks ago. The mealiness you experienced was probably a result of bad shipping or storage. A properly stored Zestar will never be mealy. Zestar doesn't have the highest flavor intensity, but it should have been tart with a good sweetness.
    • 15 Oct 2013  MN, United States
      Wow from the comments I've been reading, Byerly's must have had them mislabeled. But, I don't think so. It was a pretty apple from the outside, one was mealy, lacked flavor...I wouldn't even think of cooking with them. I think the UofM needs to go back to the drawing board!
    • 27 Sep 2013  MINNESOTA, United States
      I bet this apple will be great for use in baking were you want an apple that is crisp and tart, yet still has a sweetness to it. No hint of the brown sugar taste that was in the describtion, however reminds me of the candy "Sweet-Tarts".
    • 11 Sep 2012  WI, United States
      Purchased these recently (9/6/12) , hadn't seen them before. These are EXCEPTIONAL! Sweet & tart, juicy, crisp...what more could one want in an apple?
    • 08 Sep 2012  VA, United States
      I usually won't eat apples from the grocery store (preferring "real" apples from the fruit stand), but Zestar made the cut. It's tart and nearly as full-bodied in flavor as Winesap, but with a crispness that keeps my husband happy. Top notch!
    • 03 Sep 2012  OREGON, United States
      Very fragrant, sweet-tangy, crisp, light apple with floral tones. I also did not detect brown sugar taste, but it did remind me of some kind of candy - not sure what kind!
    • 27 Aug 2012  VERMONT, United States
      We just discovered this apple at our local orchard. We love the taste, sweet yet with some tartness. I am a diehard Cortland fan, but Zestar will definately be my early season apple.
    • 30 Sep 2011  WI, United States
      This is one of the very best newer apples out there. Very crunchy and juicy, and much more smackingly tart than sweet, with just a very pleasant appley flavor. (I also do NOT detect any "brown sugar" flavor at all.) I would guess this should be a great apple for cooking and cider making as well as fresh eating -- very versatile! Can't wait to make some cider of this one!!
    • 19 Sep 2011  WISCONSIN, United States
      "Zest" is the word. If you like an apple to open your eyes and slap your taste buds than this is the apple for you. It is crisp with sweetness to balance the zing. Keeps well for an early apple.
    • 31 Aug 2011  MA, United States
      A very tasty apple, a very nice sweet-tart combo. Supposedly it tastes of brown sugar, but I do not detect that. It is crisp and the skin is delicious as well as the fruit. Will definetly buy it again.

    Tree register

    United States


    Spring blossom records for this variety

    2022 season

    • 20th May  2022  - tree owned by JSchreiber in West Concord, United States

    2019 season

    • 19th May  2019  - tree owned by Wynne in River Falls, United States

    2016 season

    • May  2016  - tree owned by Mat in , United States
    • 10th April  2016  - tree owned by Gil in Snohomish, United States

    2015 season

    • May  2015  - tree owned by JSchreiber in West Concord, United States

    2014 season

    • 20th May  2014  - tree owned by Mike in Westfield, United States
    • 16th May  2014  - tree owned by Thomas in Cottage Grove, United States
    • 16th May  2014  - tree owned by Brenda in Marion, United States
    • 20th April  2014  - tree owned by Gil in Snohomish, United States

    2013 season

    • 15th May  2013  - tree owned by Mike in Westfield, United States
    • May  2013  - tree owned by Brenda in Marion, United States

    2012 season

    • 18th April  2012  - tree owned by Chuck in Worthington, United States

    Record your blossom dates in our Fruit Tree Register - more >>.

    Harvest records for this variety

    2022 season

    • 3rd week August  2022  - tree owned by JSchreiber in West Concord, United States

    2018 season

    • 2nd week August  2018  - tree owned by Brooke in Madelia, United States

    2017 season

    • 4th week August  2017  - tree owned by Carolyn in Franksville, United States

    2016 season

    • 1st week September  2016  - tree owned by JSchreiber in West Concord, United States
    • 4th week July  2016  - tree owned by Gil in Snohomish, United States

    2015 season

    • 4th week August  2015  - tree owned by JSchreiber in West Concord, United States
    • July  2015  - tree owned by Roger in Madison Heights, United States

    2014 season

    • 2nd week August  2014  - tree owned by Brenda in Marion, United States
    • 2nd week August  2014  - tree owned by Kacie in Plain City, United States
    • 3rd week July  2014  - tree owned by Gil in Snohomish, United States

    2013 season

    • 3rd week August  2013  - tree owned by Brenda in Marion, United States


    • Species: Malus domestica - Apple
    • Parentage: State Fair x MN 1691
    • Originates from: Minnesota, United States
    • Introduced: 1999
    • Developed by: University of Minnesota


    • Country of origin: United States
    • Period of origin: 1950 - 1999
    • Fruit colour: Green / Red
    • Flower colour: White
    • Leaf colour: Green
    • Annual cycle: Deciduous
    • Developer: University of Minnesota


    • Picking season: Early
    • Keeping (of fruit): 2-3 weeks
    • Flavour quality: Good
    • Flavour style (apples): Sweet/Sharp
    • Cropping: Good
    • Fruit persistence: Fruit drops when ripe
    • Food uses: Eating fresh
    • Picking month: August
    • Picking period: late August
    • Wildlife: RHS Plants for Pollinators


    • Gardening skill: Average
    • Flowering group: 1
    • Pollinating others: Average
    • Ploidy: Diploid
    • Vigour: Slightly large
    • Precocity: Precocious
    • Growth habit: Upright
    • Fruit bearing: Spur-bearer
    • Self-fertility: Not self-fertile


    • Cold hardiness (USDA): Zone 4 (-34C)
    • Climate suitability: Temperate climates
    • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cool ( 20-24C / 68-75F)
    • Summer average maximum temperatures: Warm (25-30C / 76-85F)
    • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cold (< 20C / 67F)

    Other qualities

    • Disease resistance: Average
    • Powdery mildew: Some resistance
    • Fire blight: Some resistance
    • Cedar apple rust: Some resistance
    • Scab (Apple and Pear): Very susceptible

    Where to buy trees

    The following tree nurseries offer Zestar! apple trees for sale:

    Where to buy fresh fruit

    The following orchards grow Zestar!:

    United States


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