Antique Apple Varieties

November 5, 2006

I recently wrote about my experiences at an annual fruit tasting, and posted an article describing the enticing qualities of heirloom apples.

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?

Twenty Ounce Heirloom Apple PhotoThere 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:

The Good…

Hidden Rose Antique Apple PhotoThese 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.

the Bad…

Winter Red Flesh Antique Apple PhotoDon’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…

Ashmead's Kernel Heirloom Apple PhotoI 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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  • Karen Neal

    Hello., My husband would like to attend an apple tasting but we can’t make the trip to Penn. right now. Is there any way we could get a sampler box? Thanks, Karen Neal

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Karen, the annual PA Backyard Fruit Growers tasting event is actually scheduled for this weekend. The group doesn’t sell fruit but you may be able to locate a few heirloom apple varieties at a local orchard in your area. You can also search the Internet for an apple grower such as Zingermans that will sell and ship heirloom apple varieties to your door.

  • http://www.applesouce.com Patrick

    Karen – you can also order antiques via http://www.applesource.com

  • http://www.carsofcoolhaven.nl Rolph

    Nice post! Hard to respond to a two year old posting, but still… I like the fact that you are exploring different apple varieties. More people should! I arrived at this post by searching for interesting apple names (I impregnated my wife on a cider trip to Hereford, UK, and we are looking for nice names) and I am pleasantly surprised at the apple variety interest!

    Soo… now all I need is a nice name ;-)

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks Rolph,and don’t worry some of the gardeners here subscribe to the entries and respond to “heirloom” comments all the time. Congrats to you and your wife for the baby that is on the way and I hope that you find a nice apple to name the child after! :-)

  • Les

    I am part of the Backyard Fruit Growers group. Our folks have 400 or so varieties of apples that we are growing. Here is our web site: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dailey/byfg.html

    We have a list of 400 apple varieties that we grow. I have gone through there for you and picked out any that I thought might inspire you.

    “Virginia Beauty” would be a nice name for a girl, don’t you think? Here are some more which you could use at least a part of the name for a girl: Aerlie Redflesh, Cherry Cox, Danielle, Eve’s Delight, Ginger Gold, Gloria Mundi, Honey Gold, Idared, Katherine, Mela di Carlo, Mollie’s Delicious, Nichole, Pixie Crunch, Rubiat, San Rose, Winter Joy.

    For a boy: Brock, Coe, Davey, Early Mac, Edwin Baur, James Grieve, Jefferis, Jonathan, Lloyd’s Russett, Red Baron, Sam’s Tawny, Spencer, Wayne, William’s Pride.

    That covers the ones on the list that I thought might work. Hope it helps. Let us know what you decide!
    Les (my e-mail is KiwiUncle@aol.com)

  • john steppling

    check scott’s nurseries in england…………great great selection of old apple varities. :)

  • Bill

    interesting site – i came across the site when i was searching for a site that would help me identify an apple i remember as a child. The apple is LARGE with red flesh (like the winter red flesh) you displayed. The apple i am trying to idenfy has red flesh during the fall then over the late fall the flesh will whiten and the apple becomes more eatable. During the red flesh stage the apple is bitter, but if you rub it it is a beautiful apple and you just want to take a big bite. Also at the red flesh stage it makes wonderful red apple sauce. This is an apple that my grandparents planted (i am thinking that it was planted 1930-1950 timeframe)I remember it as a child – it was a single tree and always had a ton of apples.It is still at the old homestead in Cranesville.PA.I have inquired with different folks w/o any luck. Can anyone help identify this apple?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Bill, I can’t identify that apple for you, but here is a link that I found with descriptions of a number of red fleshed apples. You also may want to check with the PA Backyard Fruit Growers as some of their members have more experience with all sorts of heirloom apples.

  • Bill

    Thanks Kenny, I went to your link and was able to find an apple that is described like the one I remember… the Almata – now I need a photo to look at. Thanks for your help.

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  • June Kane

    I’m trying to locate and name an amazing large, russeted, greenish apple with raised long russeted warts on it (it was unbelievably ugly) that had the freshest, meanest, sweetest, most wonderful flavor of any apple I’ve ever eaten. It was hard, crisp, sweet and tart. WHAT WAS IT??? I WOULD LOVE TO EAT ONE AGAIN, AND PLANT A TREE IF POSSIBLE. Can you help me find this? Thanks, June Kane

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  • Ken

    June;

    That sounds like one of three I can think of – Hubbardston Nonesuch (can be a bit redder, and is very sweet), Zabergau Reinette (very big, very tasty, very green and very tart) or, if it was truly knobby, Knobbed Russet. If you do a Google Image search on those, you may find the one you are looking for.

  • iyr

    Gold rush and buckingham have been available at the Smiths and IGA grocery stores I go to for years. They also have many other varieties not seen in the megamarts but im sure there are tons they don’t carry

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