Best Heirloom Dessert Apple Varieties?

Hi there! I’m posting to ask your guys experience on heirloom apple varieties. It’s simply not worth it monetarily for me to grow apples that aren’t any better than I can get at the grocery store. Of course, this needs to be balanced by the resistance to disease and productivity of the variety (while productivity doesn’t need to be huge, it should be decent). So I’ve done some research on the best heirloom sweet/dessert/aromatic apples that I can grow and I’ve settled on the following: Cox Orange Pippin/Queen Cox, Hudson’s Golden Gem, and King of the Pippins (Reine des Reinettes). We do have apple scab pressure in my area but I’ve seen gardens successfully grow the first two varieties locally (Parkrose Permaculture on youtube!) in the Portland OR area. Hudsons Golden Gem is supposed to be relatively disease resistant and productive in my area. Queen Cox is supposed to be more productive sport but its sold out at Raintree (I don’t want standard or mini rootstock-just semidwarf) so in the interest of establishing my orchard sooner, I’m wondering if I should just plant the regular Cox Orange Pippin or wait until next year. I also am unsure about trying to grow Reine de Reinettes in the pacific northwest, but I’m guessing because its a popular English apple, it can handle cool maritime climate. I would love to hear anyone with experience on this topic, as well any other varieties of apples people recommend and anything I should be aware of growing apples in the PNW in general!

1 Like

COP is one of the best apples I’ve ever eaten. It has a reputation for being somewhat difficult to grow, and I have had a few that wanted to split. No idea how they would do in PNW (I’m in Western Montana -much different.) I think you should also look into Rubinette and Karmijn de Sonnaville.

3 Likes

We planted a Rubinette this summer, however, it is susceptible to apple scab. We also have a Zabergau also planted this summer. Both are doing well. My thinking is a simple way to get around disease susceptibility without a lot of spraying is to bag the fruit when the time comes. And disease-resistant does not mean no disease. We are also on the east coast

So good luck with the heirloom and find things you would love to eat and bag them as needed when they set fruit.

2 Likes

Yes I don’t mind some physical labor like bagging, just don’t want to bring in any chemical fungicidal sprays. Thanks for sharing, I hope your Rubinette and Zabergau continue to do well! :slight_smile:

Yes I’ve heard the same about COP! Thanks for sharing those recommendations, more to research!

I hear there is controversy over queen cox anyway. I guess there is a sport going around as queen cox and there is a seedling going around as queen cox. Raintree seems to have the seedling. I would just get the original orange Cox Orange Pippin to avoid confusion.

1 Like

I’ve had some good King of the Pippins but haven’t tasted your other two choices. My favorite heirloom apple is Myers Royal Limbertwig followed closely by Red Royal Limbertwig.

3 Likes

I would suggest the following for your location.

Pitmaston Pineapple
Ashmead’s Kernel
St. Edmund’s Pippin also known as St. Edmund’s Russet
These are all English heirloom apples that are russets and have some resistance to scab. Hopefully, @z0r can supply some suggestions. He is in the Portland area. Also look at this thread it’s about growing apples in Portland.

Now some general advice. I would not rush and buy trees until you have done some research. Raintree nursery is good for some things especially dwarf cherry trees but they tend to be expensive. It would be worth your time to look at what Cummin’s nursery and Grandpa’s orchard have as far as trees.

Grocery store apples are on the forum are considered to be fair to good as far as flavor rarely excellent. But a big part of that is how the apple is grown rather than the the variety. In industry they strive to maximize yield and storage life at the expense of flavor. For example, a Golden Delicious apple grown in a backyard can be a really really good apple.

I wouldn’t limit yourself to heirloom apples entirely - I think that would be a mistake. From what you said, you intend to spray little or not at all. I think you should look at some modern disease resistance apples that have good flavor. You should realize all of the apples in the grocery store are sprayed even the organic ones. It’s just organic apples are sprayed with approved organic compounds like sulfur and clay.

For modern disease resistance apples I would recommend the following.

William’s Pride
Goldrush
Enterprise

For more general advice on selecting the first couple of apples trees take a look at this post.

4 Likes

Yep, those are both very good.

I’d encourage you to consider a few other heirlooms as well: Ashmead’s Kernel, Grimes Golden, Gravenstein, King David. And if you like COP, @marknmt’s suggestions of Rubinette and KdS are spot-on. The latter, however, is somewhat scab-prone.

3 Likes

Reinette Zabergau is a great apple here. They can get large and also no issue with diseases. It is russetted so that really helps. It needs a pollinator since it is a triploid ( it cannot pollinate itself or other apple trees).
I also would look at Arkansas Black. I had one years ago and had no issues with diseases. It is a great apple when stored for a bit. It is as hard as a brick when first picked. A beautiful apple though.
Hudson Golden Gem. It was a nice apple and disease resistant but not much of a good tasting apple. I took it out after a few years. I was disappointed in the quality of apple it produced here in my area.
My Ashmead’s Kernel is a very good apple. Disease resistant. It is only my second season getting apples from it but they were very good last year and I mave more apples this year than last. The rest of my trees had a poor year with fruit because of the last cold/frost/ freeze we had right at blooming time. Yet the Ashmead’s Kernel has more fruit on it.
My Reine de Reinette is looking good as well. No problems with diseases. This is my first year with any fruit on it, I have two apples on it.

5 Likes

interesting! I’ve heard mixed reviews about the taste of arkansas black (ah if I only I could taste the apples I want to grow before growing them!). its so interesting you gave Hudsons Golden Gem a poor review, accounting for how conditions in my area might affect flavor seems impossible. I’ve heard Ashmeads Kernal struggles locally in my area. I’ll have to look more into Reinette Zabergau, there do seem do be a couple nurseries selling it online! I’m glad to hear your RdR is disease free, I haven’t heard too many people report on its disease resistance

1 Like

Thanks for the list of suggestions! My interest is definitely piqued by Grimes Golden since I do love sweet apples and its reported to be a richer flavored Golden Delicious and a good pollinator (reportedly less productive though). I was interested by King David as well, as its reportedly very disease resistant, but then the (very snarky) applerankings.com website reported that it was tart (and ranked it as a mediocre)! Gravenstein is triploid and reportedly disease susceptible.

Thanks for the general advice! I have been researching a lot and was interested in incorporating a few modern apples too. I don’t know if my palette is refined enough to appreciate the differences between apples grown in different conditions. To be honest, I’ve been holding off on purchasing apple trees for last because of the dizzying array of varieties, and the host of pest and disease issues (I’ve already purchased pears, plums, a peach, etc!). In my apple picking experiences, the differences between a market and freshly picked apple at peak ripeness is not as great as the differences for figs, apricots, plums, and most stonefruit in general. So I’m definitely steering clear of the supermarket varieties. I am very interested in the Pitmaston Pineapple for sure! I really wondering about disease resistance and growing experience for that one. Ashmeads Kernal is reportedly difficult to grow in my area. I’m learning now about Saint Edmunds Pippin but I only want one fully russetted apple so it will have to be between that one and Hudson’s Golden Gem. Williams Pride is reportedly tart and I’m heavily biased toward sweet apples, sweeter the better (without sacrificing texture). Very interested in Goldrush as I do want to incorporate a golden apple, and its supposedly a little bit more scab resistant–comparing it to the older Golden Grimes, it seems more productive but less rich in flavor and maybe a bit more acidic (I have a tiny space compared to most of you and only want to pick out 3 great trees for now). I don’t enjoy tart apples again so Enterprise is out for me. Thanks again for the tips!

1 Like

I have heard very little about these two apples. How are they as far as taste, sweet and aromatic? complex?

Triploid: yes, but you’ll have other diploid apples to provide pollen. Disease susceptible: not in my experience, and my environmental conditions are not wildly different from yours. It’s hard to beat for apple pie, too.

interesting website - they rank SweeTango “is the best apple ever to grace the world of Gods and men.” LOL. I thought that might be interesting to plant only to find out it is under license and you need to buy 50 (at a minimum to obtain a license) “It will be a few more years until the trees will be available to the general public, as the patent expires in 2026.”

Kanzi #3 also does not appear available to home orchards.

applerankings.com really did not like Arkansas Black

1 Like

I’ve had delicious Hudson’s Golden Gem, but haven’t grown any myself even though I’ve had it for over 15 years on 2 different trees at 2 sites.

It seems extra prone to codling moth and other issues. I’m going to remove it.

Cox’s Orange Pippen has great flavor, but the texture isn’t very good, especially for folks used to crisp modern apples. Rubinette produces better and tastes better than the Cox’s I’ve grown.

My favorite is Golden Russet, although its tip bearing and ungainly growth habit stand out from others.

Freyberg is another that I love and can’t buy from the store.

I probably can’t grow apples better than the good club apples at their peak. Lucy Glo, Opal, Lady Alice, and Smitten are among my favorite. They aren’t always easy to find, and certainly aren’t cheap.

7 Likes

Hmm you may be right that my mild winters in the PNW appear suited for this apple but I’m unsure how it will fare in our HOT summers (we now regularly get heat waves in the 100’s, it wasn’t like this just 8-9 years ago…). I’m definitely intrigued by its reputation as an exceptionally flavorful apple! Some people report that its a sweet dessert apple but the nature hills nursery says its a sweet-tart apple suited for cider making…hmm.

I’m getting a kick out of reading this website. I do like strong unapologetic opinions and the colorful descriptions. :slight_smile:

The ranking on that site do not at all agree with my experience or palate.

edit: @aminarbus I just read your profile. You say you want fruit that will be productive here. This past spring was awful for a lot of fruits. Most of the apples didn’t set well for me.

Golden Russet, Rubinette, and Goldrush were exceptions. It could also be related to my particular conditions.

2 Likes