Welcome to Wondrous Diversity of Heirloom Apples
Apples (Malus pumila) are an ancient fruit, rich in history and incredibly diverse in variety. There are over 7500 apple cultivars developed by humans over thousands of years. Apples do not grow true to seed, but must be propagated by grafting onto different kinds of rootstocks, which control the size of the resulting tree.
Some apples have been bred for eating, others for cooking, and others for juice and hard cider. Apple varieties are also created to fruit in a wide range of climates, from the cold mountains of Switzerland to warm weather apples that can be grown in Texas and Hawaii. With such incredible diversity, it’s a real shame most people ever encounter 4 or 5 standard varieties in the supermarket.
Hudson’s Golden Gem
Perhaps my favorite eating apple, it was discovered as a wild seedling growing along a fence row at the Hudson Nursery in Tangent, Oregon, in 1931. A large apple, uniquely conical in shape, with a dull yellow-gold russet skin. The yellow flesh is very crisp, juicy and sugary with a somewhat nutty flavor. Many people compare it to a fine firm pear. It is a delicious apple to eat fresh, or throw into a salad with blue cheese and walnuts.
King David was discovered by Ben Frost of Durham, Arkansas who found this apple along a fence row in the late 1800's. King David is a versatile apple for cider, pies, sauce, and eating. Some claim it is the most wonderful eating apple in the world. It is a medium size deep dark red apple with a firm, crisp, spicy, juicy yellow flesh. it is thought to be a cross between Jonathan x Arkansas Black. I think it should be called, the True Red Delicious.
Ashmeads Kernel is a very old traditional English russet apple. It remains popular for its distinctive pear-like flavor which is quite different from most other apple varieties. Although often considered as a connoisseur's dessert apple, Ashmead's Kernel is actually quite versatile. It can be used for cooking, or sliced in savoury salads, and it keeps very well in a cold storage. Ashmead's Kernel is one of the oldest apple varieties in the UK dating back to around 1700. The fact that it has survived over 300 years is due to its unique and fabulous flavor, reminiscent of pears, spices and nuts.
Cox Orange Pippin
This is the classic English apple, often regarded as the finest of all apples. It sets the benchmark for flavor in apples to which all others aspire. This apple cultivar first grown in 1830, at Colnbrook in Buckinghamshire, England, by the retired brewer and horticulturist Richard Cox.The apples are of medium size, orange-red in colour, deepening to bright red and mottled with carmine over a deep yellow background. The flesh is very aromatic, yellow-white, fine-grained, crisp, and very juicy. Cox's flavour is sprightly subacid, with hints of cherry and anise, becoming softer and milder with age. When ripe apples are shaken, the seeds make a rattling sound as they are only loosely held in the apple's flesh.
This tree was discovered in the small reclusive town of Bolinas, CA by Jesse Schwartz. At the time nobody could identify this delicious apple so it was named Cinnamon Spice for its rich, distinct cinnamon flavor, tastes similar to an apple pie. Exceptionally sweet, medium in size, wine-red fruit with some yellow hue. Originally it was named Laxtons Fortune, but that is less descriptive. This is another one of my personal favorites.
Kidd’s Orange Red
Kidd's Orange Red is primarily a sweet apple, but unlike most sweet apples it has a rich complexity to the flavors too. Kidd's Orange Red is fairly crisp but also pleasantly chewy, and each bite seems to release yet more juice and flavor. Although regarded as a typical 'English' apple, Kidd's Orange Red was developed by New Zealand apple enthusiast J.H. Kidd in the 1920s and is a cross between the English Cox and the American Delicious.
Golden Russet is usually considered to have the best flavor of all American russet apples. It is an exceptionally versatile apple and was grown in New England on a commercial basis in the 19th century. Today it retains a keen following for the excellent quality of its juice, which is used for cider and hard cider production. Like most russet apples, it is not popular for commercial sales because of the russet texture, and is therefore hard to find these days. The fruits of this cultivar are yellow gold with an occasional orange flush and lot of russeting. Its flesh is fine texture, juicy and crisp, with a tartness that mellows over time in storage.
The Red Gravenstein Apple is a sport (genetic mutation) of the Gravenstein, which is considered by many to be one of the best all-around apples with a sweet, tart flavor and is especially good for baking and cooking. Gravenstein was imported into Denmark by Count Frederik the Younger (1662-1708), who found it at the monastery L’Abaye de Hautcombe near Lac du Borget in Savoyen. He brought the apple home to his family's Gråsten Palace, and the apple cultivar was named "Gråsten" or “Gravenstein.” The Gravenstein apple was introduced to western North America in the early 19th century, perhaps by Russian fur traders, who are said to have planted a tree at Fort Ross in 1811. The Gravenstein apple was introduced to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia in the 19th century. Charles Ramage Prescott, the father of the Nova Scotian apple industry, grew Nova Scotia's first Gravenstein trees in his orchard at Acacia Grove The skin of this apple is red with green stripes. The flesh is crisp, juicy, finely grained, and light yellow.
The Wickson is a crab apple, but unlike most crab apples, it is sweet enough be eaten without cooking. In fact, the Wickson scores exceptionally high in both sugar and acid, making it one of the more complex apple flavors. It’s small size makes it popular with children, for it appears to be a wee fairy apple when fully mature. It was developed by California plant breeder Albert Etter in 1944 in Ettersburg, California, as a cider apple. However, it is a great fresh eating apple and delightful in baked goods as well.
The Rubinette is considered by many the best-flavored apple (I know, I know, I keep saying they are all the best). It is a cross between Cox's Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious. The Rubinette apple was developed over a period of eighteen years in Rafz, Switzerland by a man named Walter Hauenstein. It was introduced in 1964, but not released until 1982. The apple was trademarked as 'Rafzubin', as a nod to its city of origin, and can be found under this moniker in Switzerland. Rubinette's flavor comes almost primarily from Cox's Orange Pippin, but shape similar to Golden Delicious. This apple has an unsurpassed balance of sweetness and sharpness with the Cox's aromatic qualities. There are rich flavors of oranges and lemons, plus a little nuttiness and vanilla as well. The fruit is medium sized with bright red striping over golden ground color and slight russeting. I think it’s so pretty and tasty, I named my car after it.
The Roxbury Russet is believed to be the oldest apple cultivar bred in the United States, having first been discovered and named in the mid-17th century in the former Town of Roxbury, part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony southwest of Boston. Russetted apples are distinguished by a rough skin texture, which has caused them to fall out of favor, which is a serious shame. They have an exceptionally tangy sweet flavor hiding underneath their rough and less than perfect exteriors. Russetted apples also have great storage life, and grow sweeter over time. They also feature great resistance to disease and pests, and therefore are highly recommended for backyard growers.
The Orleans Reinette was first mentioned growing in the lowlands of France in 1776, although the exact parentage is unknown. The word "reinette” likely comes from the Latin word renatus, meaning “rebirth,” and does not derive from the French word for “queen.” It refers to several French apple varieties, including the Orleans Reinette. Orleans Reinette apples are medium-sized, plump apples with yellowish-green skin, orange russet, and a red blush. The skin is a rough classic russet texture, and very crunchy. The texture of the flesh tends to be dry and dense. The flavor is similar to sweet oranges, tangerines, or other citrus, and has a nutty finish. Overall, the flavor is very complex—it goes well with buttery, nutty cheeses such as raw milk Swiss-style cheese.
One of the best late fall varieties for dessert, sauce, cider, juice and storage. It doesn't shrivel and lasts long in storage. Medium sized, glossy green, red flushed fruit. The flesh of Wagener is fine grained, white and juicy. The fruit is sweet and aromatic. This variety was developed and grown in the 18 hundreds by Abraham Wagener in Pennsylvania.
Burford Red Flesh
The Burford Red Flesh has beautiful red flesh inside crimson skin. It is one of the many varieties pioneered by the famous seventh-generation orchardist Tom Burford of Virginia. This chance seedling was found at the home of Patrick Henry’s mother in Amherst County, Virginia. Burford Red Flesh is a somewhat tart apple, and therefore is best used in cooking and baking. It can be used to make a naturally pink applesauce!
Newton Pippin is an antique American apple variety with a history going back more than 250 years. It is not always the prettiest apple you ever saw, but it is one of the best-flavored - aromatic with plenty of acid and pleasantly refreshing, and sometimes a pineapple-like note. The flesh is dense, crisp and juicy. Newton Pippin is the historical apple of our growing region, the Pajaro Valley on the central coast of California. In the 1920s when this area was first developed by farmers, almost everyone grew Newton Pippin apples. Our farmland was originally an apple farm, and when we bought it, the original orchards were long gone, but one Newton Pippin remained to point us in the right direction.
This cultivar is a chance seedling possibly a hybrid of Grimes Golden and Golden Reinette. The original tree was found on the Mullins' family farm in Clay County, West Virginia, United States and was locally known as Mullin's Yellow Seedling and Annit apple. Anderson Mullins sold the tree and propagation rights to Stark Brothers Nurseries for $5000, which first marketed it as a companion of their Red Delicious in 1914. Golden Delicious apples are pale green to golden yellow in color and speckled with small spots. They are small to medium in size, and tend to be conical or oblong in shape. Golden Delicious apples are firm, crisp, and white-fleshed. These apples have a balanced sweet-tart aromatic flavor, with honey overtones.
Jonagold apples originated in 1953 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. Jonagold apples are a cross between Golden Delicious and the Jonathan, an old American variety from the 1820s. Jonagold apples tend to be large in size and have excellent dessert flavor. They have a shorter season than many apples, making them a real treat in the fall and winter months. They form a large sweet fruit with a thin skin. Jonagold has a green-yellow basic color with crimson, brindled covering colour. The flesh is juicy and aromatic with a sweet-sour taste. This is probably the most commercial variety we grow, because they are that good.
Discovered on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in the 1890s as a seedling apple tree, it was thought to be a remnant of the miner’s movements during the earlier days of the California Gold Rush.The flesh of the Sierra Beauty is fine-textured, pale yellow, firm, crisp and juicy. The apple has an excellent balance of sweet and tart, with a tart finish. The flavor is robust, complex and lingering with notes of spice, herbs and flowers. It is an excellent choice to eat out of hand, but also is a favorite, by those familiar with it, for pies and preserves because of its full flavor and ability to hold its shape in firm pieces when cooked.
Unlike our mostly heirloom varieties, this is modern disease-resistant apple variety related to Golden Delicious, with crisp hard flesh and a good sugar / acid balance. This cultivar was introduced in 1993, and is an organic grower’s vavorite due to it’s natural resistance to many common apple diseases. It was named 'Gold Rush' to emphasize its golden ground color and bronze blush combined with its "rush" of flavor. The fruit is characterized by a complex, rich spicy flavor with a high degree of acidity and sweetness. It is excellent fresh or in pies and crisps. One of the longest lasting apples, it can keep well up to 7 months in storage. Illinois designated gold rush apples as the official state fruit in 2008.
The Calville Blanc d' Hiver is the gourmet culinary apple of France, excellent for tarts and holds its shape when cooked. Uniquely shaped medium to large size fruit, yellow skin with light red flush. Flesh is tender, sweet, spicy, flavorful, with a banana-like aroma more vitamin C than an orange. Grown by Le Lectier, procureur for Louis XIII; the Calville Blanc continues to be served in fine Parisian restaurants today. Calville Blanc d' Hiver was also grown in the garden at Monticello in the 1770's by Thomas Jefferson. It is not the best looking apple, better for cooking than fresh eating.
The Arkansas Black is an apple cultivar that originated in the mid-19th Century in Benton County, Arkansas. Arkansas Black apples are generally medium-sized with a somewhat flattened shape. Generally a very dark red on the tree, occasionally with a slight green blush where hidden from the sun, the apples grow darker as they ripen, becoming a very dark red or burgundy color. With storage the skin continues to darken. Arkansas Black is one of the darkest of all apple cultivars, hence the name.
The flesh in good years is notably hard and crunchy when fresh, though it does soften somewhat with keeping. Fairly tart when fresh-picked, the apples mellow with storage. Arkansas Blacks are considered an excellent keeping apple, and can be stored for six months in appropriate conditions. The intense aromatic flavor makes it a good variety for cooking with, and it has become increasingly popular as an apple for cider production.
The development of the Sansa apple was an effort to introduce new varieties of apples to both Japan and New Zealand. Researchers in Japan wanted to grow gala apples available in New Zealand, while New Zealand researchers wanted access to akane apples available in Japan. The resulting research partnership created a cross of both types—the Sansa—that brought the best qualities of each apple to new countries. Sansa apples taste like Galas, but the sweetness is balanced by just a touch of tartness, making for a more complex and interesting flavor.
They are a very early season apple, and the first to ripen in our orchard. A gorgeous bright red in color with some yellow streaking, Sansa’s are sweet and juicy with a little tang and a pleasant crunch. Sansa are also good for fresh eating or for making apple sauce.It has no relation to the Game of Thrones character, much to my disappointment. It’s a beautiful red apple, with a crisp texture and perfect acid/sugar balance.
Tastes like strawberries, and looks like vanilla strawberry swirl ice cream when cut open - what’s not to love?! The Strawberry Parfait apple was developed by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in the 1970s. It is a cross of Mollies Delicious and July Red. It’s my favorite early apple!
The Jefferis apple is a delicious, rich, pear-like flavor in a thin skinned, light red or red flushed package over a green skinned base. Sweet, juicy, cream colored flesh is slightly aromatic. This apple was crowned the best seedling in 1848 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and it does well in our Watsonville orchard too.
The Pink Pearl apple is a pink-fleshed apple cultivar developed in 1944 by Albert Etter, a famous northern California breeder. It’s a beauty, with a pearly opalescent skin with a light to dark pink flesh underneath. I find this apple to be on the tarter side, and it has a nice firm flesh, so I consider it a fine early apple for baking.
This apple is a cross between the Gravenstein and Golden Delicious, displaying the best of both parents. It has red striping over a gold green skin, and a delicious juicy crunch. Some people say it tastes a bit like pineapple, thus the name.It has very low chill hour requirements, only 150, which means it can be grown successfully even in warmer parts of California.