Today I wanted to share my impressions on a few specific antique apple varieties that I had an opportunity to sample at the fruit tasting event.
How Many Antique Apples Can You Name?
There were a hundred antique apple varieties represented in the fruit tasting line-up, most of which are not grown commercially or sold at local markets. A hundred heirloom apples may sound like a lot but here’s a link to a site that lists what looks like close to a thousand different antique apples.
I’d like to know who made the decision that Red and Yellow Delicious apples were the only types deserving of shelf space in every grocery store in America. I have my favorites and you may prefer a different heirloom apple than I do, so what’s wrong with a little diversity and more variety in the marketplace?
Here are some of the gourmet, heirloom, and antique apple varieties that caught my attention with their appearance, size, and absolutely incredible flavors that are very different from what you’ll typically find at your local supermarket:
These were what I considered to be the best tasting and most flavorful antique apples of the lot. I’ve also included in this category those varieties that looked great and displayed some unique or ornamental characteristic.
- York Imperial – One of my personal favorites, a tasty heirloom apple that improves during storage.
- Honey Crisp – This apple can often be found grown and sold commercially, a great tasting sweet apple.
- Sun Crisp – Not as common as Honey Crisp, Sun Crisp has a very similar and deliciously sweet flavor.
- Esopus Spitzenburg – Famous heirloom apple, one taste and you’ll understand what the hype is about.
- Hidden Rose – An attractive apple that displays a red blush infused throughout the fruit’s flesh.
- Cox’s Orange Pippen – Antique apple with a huge reputation and highly favored in many fruit tastings.
- Macoun – Unassuming name and appearance but an outstanding flavor from this tasty apple.
- Other delicious heirloom apple varieties included: Pink Sugar, Arkansas Black, Sweetheart, Wolf River, Paradise Sweet, and Smokehouse.
Don’t walk away with the wrong impression of this group. I don’t mean bad in a negative sense, but rather as mysterious, unique, or odd. These were the unusual, exotic, and gigantic sized apples that I encountered at the fruit tasting.
- Winter Banana – Strange name for an apple, this is a juicy and attractive, old-fashioned yellow apple.
- Coconut Crunch – Another rare antique apple with a tropical fruit sounding name.
- Yellow Belleflower – This unusual apple is also called Sheepnose because of its odd shape.
- Winter Red Flesh – I didn’t try this crab apple, but it did stand out with its long shape and dark red flesh.
- Pound – As the name suggests, a rather large sized antique apple variety.
- Twenty Ounce – Not to be outdone, this apple must be even larger than “Pound.”
- Swiss Gourmet – An uncommon gourmet apple with a unique taste and pleasant flavor.
- Other unusual or large sized antique apples included: Gold Rush, Buckingham, Nova Easygrow, Pomme Grieve, and Co-op 31.
and the Ugly…
I understand all of the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “beauty is only skin deep” cliches, but there were a number of antique apples that were so ugly that a fruit fly would probably pass them by. And there’s no wonder that a grocer would hesitate to stock these antiques.
But, if you gave them a try, you’d be surprised to discover that some of the ugliest apples were by far the best tasting of all. I was especially impressed by the flavors of the brownish, rough skinned, and homely looking russeted antique apple varieties.
- Razor’s Russet – A russeted Golden Delicious type of apple with an excellent flavor.
- Adam’s Pearmain – A rich, sugary flavored antique apple that makes a great dessert apple.
- Ashmead’s Kernel – Unattractive, but so very delicious, with a reputation as one of the best tasting apples around.
- Virginia Beauty – I don’t know who named this one, but they may be due for an eye exam as the ones on display were not at all beautiful.
- Hudson’s Golden Gem – Discovered in Oregon, this tasty heirloom apple was one of the best that I sampled at the fruit tasting.
- Roxbury Russet – Yet another russet variety topping my list of ugly but incredibly delicious antique apples.
So don’t put too much stock into my categories, there isn’t a “bad” antique apple in this bunch. They each have their own character and appeal that’s caused heirloom apple growers to maintain them in small orchards and private apple collections for centuries.
Want to grow your own antique apple varieties? In an upcoming entry I’ll share a few great sources for obtaining antique apple trees to plant in your own garden or backyard orchard.
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