Duchess Apple or something else?

I’m looking for people’s experiences with Duchess apples. My neighbors told me to come over about the 3rd week of Sept and pick apples as they had a ton of them this year. Among the trees were MacIntosh, Haralson, Duchess, Jonathan, and Wealthy which were gone. The tree they called the Duchess was probably a week or two ahead of the MacIntosh and had lost a fair bit more apples than the Mac and Haralson. The Macs were just ripe–quite firm but no longer “green” and firm and tart but edible, and the Haralson were maybe slightly behind the Mac in maturity, all of which was a little earlier than most years but my fruit was also ripening a week or two early.

Anyway, the Duchess was really delicious–nicely juicy, aromatic, and sweet with some tartness, not hard but crisp yet easily chewable. I looked up its characteristics later and it is described as a tart apple ripening in late summer with yellow flesh and striped and a little on the smaller side. These apples were different–while there were smaller ones on the tree, many were 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. It was largely red, and if you look very closely you can see some light striping, but mostly red–although when you compare it to the Mac, the Mac does not appear to have striping–just red or green to yellow while Duchess does have the muted striping amongst all the red. Additionally, the flesh looked crisp white with red staining. I’ve had them in cool storage since then and had a Duchess and a Mac tonight and they are each keeping just as well. Next to each other, the Duchess and Mac were about 3 inches in diameter, with no bloom on the Duchess while the Mac was covered in bloom. Sliced open, the Duchess did have an ever so slight yellowish cast along with the red staining when sitting next to the Mac which was white maybe towards the greenish side of white–but when not side to side, I wouldn’t call the flesh yellow–at least nothing like the yellow of a Whitney crab I have. Flavor was similar but not the same between the two–aromatic, sweet with some tartness in both to give it an excellent overall flavor, just not quite the same as the characteristic flavor of a Mac which I find very easy to recognize. In terms of age, all these trees were purchased locally in pots in the spring in the early 80’s a few years after the winter of '78 took out most of the apples.

So, does this sound like Duchess or could it be something else? None of the descriptions I’ve seen ever mentioned the red staining, and every one I’ve eaten has prominent red staining, and I wouldn’t call them tart. Granny Smith green from the store is tart. Jonathan is on the tart side until quite ripe (but it’s flavor makes up for any short term puckering), but the Duchess and Mac were nicely balanced with plenty of sweetness–one of the things I like about a Mac starting about a month after picking.

Thanks for any thoughts.

Duchess in SE WI ripens around August 20th. McIntosh ripens around September 20th.
At least in my area of the country. Duchess is a soft striped apple that I did not find pleasant for fresh eating. I tried it in a pie and found it cooked up to the consistency of apple jelly inside the pie. Sorry but not my favorite for cooking either. Very tart flavor.

My grandmother had a Duchess tree. The orchard I worked at for a few years after college had one standard Duchess tree. Your description of what you have for “Duchess” sounds far better than my experiences with that variety.


My in laws had a Duchess tree. Preferred for applesauce. Yellow with red stripes, white fleshed. Done by Aug.15 around Waterloo, Ia. I don’t, won’t have one in my orchard.

Thanks for your thoughts. I’m thinking this is not a Duchess but rather something else–just what.

You might take a look at Red Astrachan. It’s an older apple (from Russia in the 1870s ) but widely grown in Colorado and Wyoming. Not sure how likely it is that they were widely available as late as the 1980s, but someone would probably have had to go looking for a wealthy as well. They are described as oblate (slightly flattened) and the ones on my tree right now in August are pretty big already.