100s of Apples Types. How to Select The Right Apple Tree

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The question “what variety of apple should I get” is a common question that we have gotten at the farmers market. With a multitude of varieties available it is really a very fair question. I can say I am certainly guilty of not taking into consideration of just how many hours we’ve spent reading apple bios and getting familiar with the apples that are available. After all, we spent months selecting which ones we were really interested in and some that we are willing to take a shot on.

There are a couple of ways to slice up what kind of apples will suit your needs and which ones to narrow down to try out. In this article we’ll discuss some of the ways we have used to select apples, starting from the largest and most powerful filters and then dialing in the smaller factors.

An Apple for Every Use

The very first thing we look at, is what exactly are we going to use this apple for. The following question is the first question I ask anybody giving me a full sense of who they are and their goals:

Does the thought of making homemade apple pie sound amazing to you, or does it sound like work?

That question alone will remove about +60% of apples from consideration. If you’re just looking for fresh eating apples (also called dessert apples) then you can skip a large majority of apples which are used for all sorts of different uses.

In case you didn’t know, apples were developed by families over generations and were used for vastly different purposes, which is one of the reasons it is on our list of the top 5 fruit trees every family in the south needs. Just by picking the use of an apple, we can short cut most varieties.

Here are some of the main uses of apples:

  • Fresh Eating
  • Cooking / Canning
  • Baking
  • Drying
  • Jelly / Preserves
  • Cider (Juice)
  • Cider (Alcohol)
  • Vinegar

There are more uses than that but those are the primary ones. Is this for fresh eating out of hand? Or are you trying to replace bulk products that you are currently bringing in with something a bit more natural and home grown? Apples can fit either role, and if you’re just enamored with biting into a fresh apple, be prepared to skip a number of great apples for other purposes.

What Pulls You In? Plant Something Exciting

NC apple tree Junaluska, Little Benny, Dula's Beauty, Mattamuskeet
My NC apple tree. Junaluska, Little Benny, Dula’s Beauty, and Mattamuskeet are grafted on it.

We believe that in order to find what we really want in life, we sometimes just have to jump into it. Some varieties of fruit just sound exciting and different. There is a continual dedicated underground following in the fruit culture movement which has preserved numerous varieties because their stories and tastes are intriguing. These stories have helped us understand the context and use of an apple far more than just the descriptions alone. The story of an apple, particularly its origination, can often tell you a lot about the setting that it is going to perform well in. One such story is the Mattamuskeet apple from coasts of Eastern North Carolina. (Hyde County to be exact).

Story has it that the Mattamuskeet apple was pulled from the gizzard of a wild goose by Mattamuskeet indians. Who knows where this goose must have gotten this apple, but what is sure is that it landed up on the shores of North Carolina. The Mattamuskeet apple ripens extremely late and can hang on to the tree well into the new year. The storage capability of this apple is also quite legendary in-it-of-itself as it has been said that it can be stored without protection for months on end, even in the humid south. This makes it an oddity all on its own. Eliza Greenman‘s reply on Facebook to this apple was “Most interesting taste.” I would think such a wild apple, probably does have one.

Having spent my teenage years in Havelock, NC in Eastern North Carolina I can speak from experience about the tough growing conditions there. So I’d say I’m a sucker for the apple based on its location and southern growing capability alone.

Are You Concerned About Protecting and Cherishing Heritage?

Some people are concerned about protecting varieties of fruit that may be local. The internet has drastically improved our current ability to get access to long lost fruits that may be local to your area, or at least to your state. Every Southern State has apples native to it, even Texas, generally from all over the state as well. (The exception to this is Louisiana, something we will be working on turning around in the years to come.)

Here is a list of a few of the southern apples by state. (Some are not vintage, particularly in the case of Florida)

Heritage scion
A bundle of heritage scion from all over the south.

Alabama

  • Atha
  • Brogden
  • Carter’s Blue
  • Dixie Red Delight
  • Granny Neighbors
  • Hackworth
  • Higdon
  • Shell of Alabama

Florida

  • Tropic Sweet

Georgia

  • Black Limbertwig
  • Blairmont
  • Disharoon
  • Fort’s Prize
  • Green Cheese
  • King Soloman
  • Magnolia Gold
  • Parks’ Pippin
  • Red Detroit
  • San Jacinto
  • Shockley
  • Tarbutton
  • Terry Winter
  • Yates

Mississipi

  • Capt. Davis
  • Cauley
  • Dan McDonald
  • Floyd Richmond
  • Herring Striped
  • Johnson Keeper
  • Ray
  • Sebren
  • Smith Seedling of MS
  • Woodham-Mason

South Carolina

  • Father Abraham
  • Hammond
  • Hoover
  • Summer Banana
  • Tenderskin

Texas

  • Holland
  • Jonalicious
  • Reverend Morgan

What Apples Are We Interested In?

Espalier Drakenstein apple
An espaliered Drakenstein apple fruiting and blooming.

We are interested in the apples that produce consistently and have diverse backgrounds. Since Bonnie Blue deeply believes in building a resilient family and life, we are attempting to find the ones that require the least amount of work and consistently produce, spread across the entire year. It is our dream to be able to eat a fresh apple from the end of May all the way into December and beyond. There are certainly enough apples for us to try to achieve that.

Christine (my wife) is just waiting for the ability to make an apple pie entirely from ingredients made fresh on the farm. (Apples, chestnut flour, lard, apple butter)

Some Parting Words

One thing to keep in mind when reading apple bios and especially with any fruit tree, is that how the fruit reads, may not be your results. This is precisely why we recommend learning the absolute basics of grafting (a skill anybody can pick up easily). Having that skill will empower you to change any nonperforming fruit tree, into one of abundance. The apple bio could read as being very “crisp” but it just happens to not be that way where you live. Even then, depending on the year, the apple may not be its best, instead being a bit, “meh”, good enough. All the more reasons to have different varieties for when some years don’t work out!

And lastly, have fun with it! Get excited about picking out some great fruit for your future.

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