10 Best Apples in My Orchard{28}

Fresh apples=Fresh pie

Fresh apples = Fresh pie

While my orchard harvests are not ready for prime time availability and farmstand sales, I do like to share my findings in what I think are some of the best apples I grow. And by best apples, I mean, tree varieties that aren’t too fussy and grow fruit of exceptional quality and flavor. While an apple tree takes several years to establish itself and begin to produce fruit, I’m confident the following varieties are winners both in vigor, taste and culinary use. There are so many really great apples to grow, do a little research for your growing zone, dig a big hole and plant yourself firmly in growing something special.  And if space is an issue, plant trees with a dwarfing root stock. I have plenty more apples where these came from, so stay tuned as other varieties prove themselves in my Pacific Northwest orchard. I’ll happily share my findings, in the name of apple lovers everywhere.  And please know, there are hundreds of great apples to grow; so I’d love to hear about your favorite apple cultivars.

Best Apples in My Orchard…and in My Opinion

Blog_belle_de_boskoop_appleBelle de Boskoop apple: I would have planted this tree merely for its name (pronounced Bell-da-boss-k0e), but lucky for me it’s an all-around great apple with lots of personality. Wonderfully tart, the flavor is unique as if you spritzed lemon juice on it. Belle de Boskoop bakes and cooks well, and is perfect for chunky applesauce, sturdy pies, bubbling crisps, and juicy grunts. In my orchard the tree produces biennially, that is bumper crops one year and little to no fruit the following year. It’s such a delicious, spritely, all-purpose apple that I have no trouble accepting that. The Belle de Boskoop skin brings on a beautiful rosy blush when ripe.

Bramley's Seedling AppleBramley’s Seedling apple is hands down one of my favorite baking apples. It’s a tree that says, Stand back, I’m ready to grow some great cooking apples and plenty of them.” (Yes, I speak apple.)  Such a very heavy producer, Bramley’s Seedling usually requires support stakes to keep the overloaded limbs from breaking. Apples are big, firm, crisp and flavorful–spirited for sure, and perfect for cooking or eating fresh though on the uber-tart side when first picked. My tree has proven to be a biennial producer, but again, the apples are so good, I can indeed live with that.

Calville blancCalville Blanc tastes as good as it sounds. A French heirloom apple dating back to the sixteenth century, Calville Blanc has proven itself as a truly exceptional apple blessed with every attribute you’d want in an apple: it’s sweet, spicy, flavorful, and good in the kitchen and on the table.  If that’s not enough for you, this apple contains more Vitamin C than an orange. In my orchard, I’ve found it to be healthy and productive, but in drought years like 2015, Calville Blanc really suffered and produced smallish fruit of lesser quality. So watering is important with this one.

Esopus Spitzenberg AppleAfter reading that Esopus Spitzenberg was the preferred apple of Thomas Jefferson, I sought the cultivar out and planted it faster than I could say or spell, “Monticello.” Trees of Antiquity nursery describes the apple glowingly. “Unexcelled in flavor or quality, the fruit is great off the tree, but flavor radically improves in storage. Medium apple with crisp, yellow skin covered with inconspicuous red stripes and russet freckles. Flesh is tinged yellow, firm, aromatic, and complex in flavor; a perfect balance between sharp and sweet. ” I wholeheartedly agree. It took my tree a couple years to get established, and while many sources cite Esopus Spitzenberg apple trees are susceptible to a number of diseases, I have not found that to be the case in my Puget Sound orchard (knock on apple wood).

Hudson's Gem apple Hudson’s Gem originally hails from Oregon, a chance discovery in 1931. Purported to be the largest russeted apple, the fruit is everything an apple should be: crunchy, juicy, sweet, and satisfying. The disease-resistant tree is vigorous, and insects seem to stay away from the curry-colored beauty.

Jonagold ApplesJonagold is an amazingly good all-purpose apple. In fact, if I could only plant a couple apple trees, Jonagold would top the list. As a cross between a Gold Delicious and Jonathan, it brings a lot of flavor to the table. . Fresh eating or all-purpose, this apple is juicy and super sweet but finishes off with a very nice tartness. The vigorous tree is a heavy and consistent producer of medium to large apples each year. 

Karmijn de Sonnaville appleKarmijn de Sonnaville enjoys a Jekyll – Hyde personality, currying interest (and favor) as being both sweet and tart. In fact, at Washington State University taste-test trials, the apple was rated as both the sweetest and tartest  tasting apple out of a 100 cultivars.  A good keeper, the apple changes personality as it ripens in cold storage, mellowing to further sweetness while remaining crisp. My Karmijn seems to be a bit of a biennial producer, but grows well in a cool climate like in its homeland, The Netherlands, and in my homeland, the Puget Sound Basin of Washington State. If that’s not enough, Karmijn keeps well on the tree and in cold storage.

delicious liberty applesLiberty apple: I joke, “Give me Liberty or give me pests!” as this delicious sweet-tart snacking gem is wonderfully disease resitant, making the Liberty apple a fuss-free choice for the home and organic gardener. Known for its reliability and excellent quality, the Liberty shines on all levels and performs well in our cool climate.  If not thinned the apples are small, but like I said, this makes them a perfect snack size. I’ve found drought conditions are no friend to the Liberty apple; this year mine were the size of crabapples, but still delicious.

Melrose apples on treeMelrose apple: I only planted Melrose a couple years ago, and it’s already one of my favorite apples. Dripping with juice and bright flavor, the crisp apples grow quite large and are perfect for fresh eating and baking. Introduced in 1944 from Ohio State University (and now Ohio’s official state apple), Melrose won kudos for exceptional flavor, but never took off commercially as consumers preferred prettier apples. Big mistake. This is a really great apple (a cross between the Red Delicious and Jonathan), which deserves to be more widely available. Plant one, you won’t regret it.

York AppleYork apple, a.k.a. York Imperial, is one of those apples that tastes like it should have a long history, and it does. With roots that run deep both literally and figuratively, the York apple was discovered in 1830 in York, Pennsylvania. Not overly sweet, York yields a subtle flavor and appealing, extra-firm texture. It’s an apple I could eat everyday. In addition, York is a superior baking apple, good-keeper and tree of exceptional vigor and productivity.
Boz's favorite

Jonagold was Boz’s favorite apple: low hanging fruit so juicy and crisp that a well-placed lunge would secure a sugary reward, easily crushable in one fell bite.

Related links

Apple Tree Nurseries

I’ve ordered from all of these with complete satisfaction.

  • Burnt Ridge Nursery: “…offering many different disease resistant apples on a variety of rootstocks.”
  • Fedco Nursery: a great source for heirloom apples, available mail order
  • Grandpa’s Orchard: “…allowing the backyard fruit grower to order online and purchase the most proven disease resistant, antique, heritage, unique, and common bareroot fruit tree varieties on dwarf, semi-dwarf, semi-standard and standard rootstocks.”
  • One Green World: “…a family-owned nursery now located in Portland. Our plants are grown by Northwoods Nursery, our mother company, on our 66 acre farm in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley.”
  • Trees of Antiquity: “…growing and shipping organic fruit trees across the country for over 30 years”

Favorite Apple Recipes