How Do I Like Them Apples? (Pomologically Speaking)

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pair of honeycrisp apples
Boz the bulldog tries to snatch an apple

Great Apple Trees for Western Washington (Seattle).

While my pear and peach trees have forsaken me, my apple trees continue to bloom with promise. And after a year of promising, the goods are in. The following apple varieties seem well suited to our cool maritime climate and produce great apples without the use of pesticides or fussy growing techniques or protocols.

Of all the lovely blossoms that decorate the trees,
And shower down their petals with every breath of breeze,
There is nothing so sweet or fair to me,
As the delicate blooms of the apple tree.

COPY CODE SNIPPET

–Hattie Howard

Plant the Right Variety for Your Climate

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” These are words to live by when planting fruit trees. Do your research, and find the best choice for your site, climate, and subsequent care. This is really important if you grow organically; apples (like people) can be temperamental. Err on the side of vigor. Check your local extensions, fruit clubs and garden forums for pertinent and timely information.

Not One Bad Apple

The following beauty pageant of pommes is by no means comprehensive and merely represents my most recent and respectable harvest of apples from relatively young trees (4-7 years old). Here’s my list of standouts for 2011.

Blog_belle_de_boskoop_apple

Belle de Boskoop apple: I would have planted this tree merely for its name (pronounced Bell-da-boss-k0e), lucky for me it’s a all-around great and heavy producing 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. Learn more.

Beni Shogun Fuji Apple
Beni Shogun Fuji apple is one of my favorite fresh eating apples. Because Fuji needs a long growing season, and I live west of the Cascades where long summers rarely vacation, I was in search of a sport of Fuji that was better suited for cooler climates. I found Beni Shogun Fuji and I’m happy to report old Beni is a champ, weathering our cool growing season admirably and ripening about a month earlier than the standard fuji. The apples were glowing red and firm as an unripe pear. A few weeks in the fridge and they mellowed into juicy little sugar bombs.

Bramley's Seedling Apple

Bramley’s Seedling apple is handsdown my favorite baking apple. It’s a tree that says stand back, I’m ready to grow some great cooking apples and plenty of them. 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. Learn more.

Cameo Apples

Cameo apple had me at hello. I was willing to take a chance on this apple, not sure how well it would grow in Western Washington. You should be able to find Cameo in your produce section, so give it a try. It is a juicy, crisp fresh eating apple suitable simply for dessert with a little aged cheddar. Normally cameos are more red than yellow; perhaps their light blush is in response to my fondness toward them.

pair of honeycrisp applesHoneycrisp, an apple that shares the unlikely combination of sweetness and crunch, lives up to its name. When first picked, the apple is wonderfully tart, but a stay in the fridge for a week or two renders it succulent and sweet. While my tree was slow to produce, taking four years to harvest a decent crop, I feel it was certainly worth the wait. Honeycrisp is a real dazzler in the orchard and in the kitchen and my best apple for 2011 (actually it shares the title with Bramley’s Seedling). Learn more.

Jonagold Apples
Jonagold apple is an amazingly good all-purpose apple in my orchard. 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. It is super sweet but finishes off with a very nice tartness. Fresh eating or cooking up a storm, this is my prize pick for best apple in 2010. More from WSU extension.
delicious liberty apples
Delicious sweet-tart snacking gem, Liberty apples are a great choice for the home and organic gardener. Known for disease resistance, reliability and excellent quality, the Liberty shines on all levels and performs well in our cool climate.  Learn more.
York Apple
York apple is one of those apples that tastes like it has a history (and it does). Discovered in 1830 in York, Pennsylvania, the apple enjoys a subtle flavor and appealing, firm texture.  While not overly sweet, York is an apple I could eat everyday, whether or not it actually did keep the doctor away. Big and lop-sided usually, it’s also a very good baking apple and is sometimes called York Imperial. Learn more.
Wickson crabapples are a standard apple’s mini-me. They are small, tasty, not overly sour, and well suited to both fresh eating and cider making. I also like to pickle them. Another advantage, Wickson crabapples prove prolific bloom producers and awesome cross- pollinators in the orchard.
Learn more.

And as always, keep your eye on the pie, make that apple pie, please!

Each year I list my favorite and best performing apples. 2012 should be a good year as most of my apple trees will be reaching fruiting maturity.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Tom ! Thanks for your great article on your favorite apples ! We are having a super apple harvest here in north Georgia. I didn’t realize that some time spent in the refrigerator could change the flavor of an apple. Very interesting !!
    Thanks again !
    Have a wonderful Autumn ! Brooks

  2. Thanks Tom….great info. I could add one of the first apples: Discovery – v. crunchy but, being early, not a keeper at all. Melrose – ripe now – again crunchy, crisp and tartish – a keeper. The Delicious apples sold in the stores are my unfavorites – like applesauce already made.

  3. I love to find out what others are growing–especially those with SHORT summers. We generate a LITTLE heat here, but it sure doesn’t stick around. I think I’m going to try the Beni Shogun–sounds wonderful.

    Oh, and I had my first ever peaches this year, and I DIDN’T squeeze them. They were divine. And un-bruised!
    🙂

  4. Sheryl, I just planted Melrose this year; it’s the official apple of Ohio, who knew?

    And Sue, way to go on the peach, that is quite a feat. And no squeezing? Ah, my work is done here. 😉

  5. I like my apples quite fine, but the racoons like them even better. I came home last night after dark to a loud and contentious squabble in my remaining fruit laden tree. At breakfast that morning I was munching on a Dutch Orange? apple and thinking maybe it was the thick and tangled limb growth that had kept these apples on this tree safe so far. This morning when I got up with the sun, I looked out to a scene from the Wizard of Oz-you know the one where the tree throws apples at Dorothy for picking their fruit. I think my tree must have thrown all her fruit at the marauding coons, as they all lay on the ground about the tree.
    Any coon proof ideas?

  6. 20 apple trees! These must keep you busy! I love apples. eat them daily. there is a variety I bought recently called Lady Alice (my daughter’s name) that I liked a lot. What do you do with all these apples>?

  7. What–no soggy red delicious? Looks like you’re cutting your shortning too fine in your pie crust…..I thought I taught you better than that. Drop and give me fifty!

  8. Reading this on my MacBook Pro, I can’t help thinking about the fact that Steve Jobs’ “Apple Orchard” bloomed and yielded fruits beyond the imaginings of mere mortals. Isn’t it bittersweetly fitting that he left this world during Apple Harvest season…

  9. Our orchard was planted in 1910; the trees are HUGE and the apples unidintified… But now that I read your blog I think we have Belle de Booskoops! Last year I collected 210 apples from this tree (and didn’t make a dent in the harvest) and made pies (to freeze), and canned apple sauce, and apple pie filling. It was all beyond sweet and delicious! I am collecting more apples next weekend for round two! Thanks for all the help!!

  10. Also… I tried to peel my garlic using the bowl shaker method and it didn’t really work. Has anyone out there had luck with this. Maybe my bowls weren’t big enough, or my shaking hearty enough? Also, I made salted herb seasoning. Has anyone ever tried this?

  11. Hi Tom – hopefully this comment will work this time? I did not realize you had such an orchard. What wonderful apple varieties you have….they all look scrumptious, and apple blackberry pie is our all time favorite!

  12. Karen, I tried the garlic-banging-pan method and it only worked in a large pan, and I had to vigorously shake it. While not the quietest way to remove garlic skins it is the most entertaining.

  13. Thanks for the updated apple info. We pronounce in Dutch Boskoop like that ” boskoop” I can’t get every variety over here in Belgium but I love boskoop , jonagold & bramley!
    Stunning & lovely info on thse apple sorts!

    Thanks!

  14. Honey crisp are wonderful we get them here in CT in Litchfield county..I make apple and cheddar cheese sandwiches..grilled..with mustard pickle..wish I was closer to Vashon to be able to sample your bounty..you sell at a local marche,,yes?

  15. That is a lot of apples. You could really make tons of stuff with them. I haven’t ever heard of many of the varieties you name here. Can they be found in markets?

  16. Okay – i am laughing hysterically about that first photo – i had to stare at it for awhile before i realized it was your pooch’s nose & toungue! ha Thanks for sharing over here at Fishtail Cottage’s Outdoor Decor party! Those apples look delicious & that pie – what a great idea to mix in the blackberries too…can you send me the recipe? xoox, tracie

  17. Tome,

    Does Boss like apples? Clarence does too but he gets sick so no more apple treats for the Beast!
    Organically grown pesticide free is the way to go! Congrats on your growing ‘technique’ I wish all types of farming were done that way. Fujis are my fav.

    Cheers,
    Hegs

    • Hi Hegs. Oh yes, Boz is insanely committed to finding and eating every apple on the property. And you know what that does to a bulldog…clears the house for the most part. Fuji are one fantastic apple, hard to match as a fresh eating apple. I love not spraying anything in my orchard. You win a few battles and you lose a few, but the trees, the land and the orchardist are happier and healthier.

  18. […] on their own, however even these will fruit better if they have a partner pollinating tree nearby. Grow Your Own Fruit Imagine next year plucking your own home grown apples, pears, cherries and plum…ing a living larder in the back garden and a fantastic way to keep the kids enthralled. Once the […]

  19. I just found your nice site and since I live rather close by, Seabeck, I found your list very interesting. I’ve been an amateur orchardist for so many years now that I find varieties which were considered new then now sold by Trees of Antiquity! Of course I have favorites different from you but I would like to comment that if, after all these years, I could have but one [actually another for pollination] it would be Jonagold hands down, though per category others top my list. Still, for those with limited room, Jonagold will not disappoint as the best all around use apple. Nice to agree.

  20. George I’m eager to hear, what are your favorite apple trees that you grow in Seabeck? By the way, Seabeck is one of the prettiest spots around, love the state park there.

  21. Hi. A question & a comment:

    You (which is to say, everyone) should give SnowSweet a shot. It, like Honeycrisp, was bred by the University of Minnesota. It’s sweet and has a great aromatic taste that is faintly reminiscent, of all things, of lychee (to my taste anyway). Some I’ve met say its too sweet, so if that’s not your thing you might not like it. Spigold might be my second (Sansa, SunCrisp, and Pink Pearl also come to mind as ones to try if you can, although the latter is fairly tart), but SnowSweet is hands down my all time favorite. Definitely one to give a shot if you ever get the chance.

    And the question: I notice the Muscat de Venus and other two Etter apples an older post mentions you growing aren’t listed here. Could I ask, have they yet to bear, or is their taste not on par with the others? While the other two also sound interesting, I’m particularly curious about the Muscat de Venus and the grape flavor it is supposed to have. If it has fruited for you, could you give me an impression of the taste? Thanks!

  22. Hi Greg, thanks for the tip on SnowSweet; I have never heard of it, so off I am to find a source. I wonder if it would work for our cool Puget Sound summers and mild winters?

    As for Muscat de Venus™, Amberoso™, and Atalanta™, they were bench grafts when I got them so after fours years of growing, this may be their year to produce some apples. Actually correction, the Atalanta when sprouting was munched to the ground by a deer.

    I’ll let you know how they do this year. The Muscat does have very ornamental blossoms, now for the fruit!

  23. Hi Tom! thank you for your stories and your pictures! Both are like paintings by Van Gogh and Gauguin together – ah! I have three hundred gazillion questions I want to ask you, but asking them one by one means I need to ask you this one sweetest question of all: what do you think is the most sweet and soft (not crisp) apple? and would it happen to be yellow or orange by any chance???

    • Hi Ola, sweet and soft apples? Hmm, I’d have to say summer apples or early eating apples are your best bet. Gravensteins turn soft quickly but at tart at first. Winter Banana is a good choice, while probably the most readily available sweet soft apple is the Red and/or Yellow Delicious. I like the yellow better as you can cook with it too. Most folks prefer crispy apples, so most apple crosses and cultivars are focused on delivering that sought-after crunch at first bite. Hope this helps.

  24. Thank you Tom! Winter Banana sounds real cool, but I think I will go with Yellow Delicious because they are YELLOW! 🙂 Thank you for reminding me of them. Your site is awesome! Good luck to you and your creations:)

  25. Hi Tom,
    It has been 3 years since I stumbled on your blog. My husband and I had just bought a new house and I was researching the type of apple tree that was growing in the yard. I was fairly certain it was a Belle de Boskoop from your picture on this blog entry but was never really sure. This year we took our apples to the UBC Botanical Gardens’ Apple Festival to be identified and true enough, they were Belle de Boskoop! I just wanted to say thanks for posting that picture and for continuing to blog. Your good natured humour, gardening tips, recipes and the adventures of Boz and Gracie are chicken soup to my soul; and I eagerly look forward to each new entry to see what else has happened at Tall Clover Farm. 🙂
    Cheers,
    Valerie

    • Valerie, your comment was the first thing I read this morning, and I wish all my mornings could start off with a smile this wide. Thank you for your kind words and support. Blogging is a goofy thing. Friends sometimes ask why I do it. Now all I have to do is send them a link to your comment. So nice to meet you and cheers to you and your husband in beautiful British Columbia and to that fine Belle de Boskoop apple tree that introduced us. Warm regards, Tom

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