The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Selecting Apple Varieties

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

There is nothing sweeter than tasting a fresh apple on a crisp fall day. Now if your idea of a fresh apple is a Red Delicious from the grocery store, well I am here to tell you that is as tasty as cardboard compared to the "right off the tree" apple. Vow to expand your apple horizons this year. The apple growers in Washington and my own taste tests provided the following descriptions.

Golden Delicious has firm, white flesh and sweet crisp flavor. It is the preferred "all purpose" cooking apple since it retains its shape and rich, mellow flavor when baked or cooked. Its skin is so tender and thin that it doesn't require peeling for most recipes. Golden Delicious is very good in fresh salads and freezes well.

Fuji's spicy, crisp sweetness and firm flesh make it an excellent fresh eating apple. It's also good in baking or applesauce and stores well. Fuji flavor improves in storage like fine wine. Fuji skin color varies from yellow-green with red highlights to very red. It was bred from a cross between Red Delicious and Ralls Janet varieties in Japan. Gala is one of my absolute favorites for fresh eating. It is heart-shaped with distinctive yellow-orange skin with red striping. Gala is just the right size for snacking and is great in salads, good for baking and very good in applesauce.

Braeburn has high impact flavor. The crisp, aromatic Braeburn blends sweetness and tartness just right for snacks and salads. It's also good in baking, applesauce and for freezing. Braeburn color varies from greenish-gold with red sections to nearly solid red. Braeburn was discovered as a chance seedling near Nelson, New Zealand in 1952. Its probable parents are Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith.

Granny Smith has crisp mouthwatering tartness. Bright green Granny Smith has a pink blush. Its tartness really comes through when baked and saut}ed.

Jonagold is a blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples, offering a unique tangy-sweet flavor with firm flesh. Jonagold is excellent both for eating fresh and for cooking. Winesap is the apple with old-fashioned flavor. Winesap has a spicy almost wine-like flavor that makes it the cider maker's first choice. Violet red in color, it's great as a snack and in salads.

Arkansas Black is well named with a deep red almost black skin. It is rock hard, sweet and tart and a long storage apple.

Mutsu also called Crispin is sweet, firm and crisp. It is good for sauce, pies and fresh eating. Rome is the baker's buddy. Its mild flavor grows richer when baked or saut}ed. Rome has smooth, blazingly red skin with sweet, slightly juicy flesh.

Some disease resistant and tasty varieties have been developed through a joint breeding program of Purdue, Rutgers and University of Illinois. Prima, Priscilla, Priam, Sir Prize, Jonafree, Redfree, Dayton,William's Pride and McShay varieties came out of this program. The University of Illinois continues to work toward disease resistant, high quality apples.

According to legend, the Esopus Spitzenburg apple variety was Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple. Spitzenburg is thought to be a parent of the Jonathan apple variety. While not available in many grocery stores, you can occasionally find Spitzenburg apples at farm markets like Wolfe Orchard in Monticello.

There are reportedly 7500 varieties of apples available worldwide; and you thought you were happy with Red Delicious.

Check out these local apple orchards:

  • Curtis Orchard in Champaign 359-5565.
  • Wolfe Orchard in Monticello 762-7780 carries many heirloom varieties.
  • Apple Corners in Sidney 688-2402.
  • McMahon Orchard in Champaign 359-5551.

Idea Garden Workshops start at 10:00 am. No fee or registration is required.

September 23 - Saving garden plants for next year.

September 30 - Gardener's Black gold Compost

Also join us for the U of I Arboretum Open House October 7.

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