Good, old, New England apples (or apples for New England)?

Hi everybody,

I am making plans for a small home orchard in Western Massachusetts (5b) and would appreciate your help with selecting apple varieties. As the thread title suggests, I’m particularly interested in finding varieties that are some mix of (a) really good in terms of flavor and growability, (b) old, and © have roots in New England (so to speak). Not every variety has to hit every category, but high marks in more than one are a plus.

To be a little more specific in terms of growability, I’m looking for apples that will do reasonably well on a no-to-very-low-spray regimen. As a novice, I’ve been reading the “apples without pesticides” thread, and it’s given me a lot to think about. Here’s my thinking at this point, just so you know where I’m coming from in terms of my own particular situation. (1) My family loves apples. (2) I would like to try growing apples. (3) For a number of reasons involving our site and family situation, spraying anything that’s more than minimally toxic is pretty much a deal-breaker. (4) Before sprays were invented, people did commonly grow apples in our area. (5) However, growing very-low-to-no-spray apples will probably involve doing more work and/or accepting a higher proportion of less-than-perfect fruit. (6) I think I’m ok with that.

So, I’m looking for varieties that have a good degree of resistance, have a track record of success from the days before spray, and are well-adapted to our region. (Hence the “old” and “New England”, though I admit that irrational sentimentality is a factor here, too.) I’ve read through the forum and consulted a bunch of other sources, and I’ve put together a short list that I wanted to run by you all.

At this point, I’m planning to order scionwood and rootstock for maybe a half dozen trees and give grafting a go this spring. (I recently found out that my dad learned how to graft apple trees from his dad when he was a kid growing up in rural Michigan, so hopefully we’ll be able to revive that family tradition.) I’m planning to plant the trees in a more sheltered area this year and then transplant whatever makes it next spring. In order to make the most of our space and sun, I’m planning to grow most of the trees in a Belgian fence, but I do have room for a few small freestanding trees, too, if there are particularly desirable varieties that are better suited for that approach.

OK, on to the short list of varieties I’ve been looking at. At this point, I’m probably looking at picking a couple of candidates from each category, though I would be hoping to add more (and expand the list) down the line.

Early fall

Hubbardston Nonesuch
Pitmaston Pineapple
Claygate Pearmain
Kidd’s Orange Red
Reine des Reinettes

Mid fall

Westfield Seek No Further
Grimes Golden
Hoople’s Antique Gold
Orleans Reinette
Gray Pearmain
Blue Pearmain

Late fall/Winter keepers

Ashmead’s Kernel
Black Oxford
Hunt Russet
Roxbury Russet
Zabergau Reinette

Any suggestions for things that you think should move up, down, onto, or off the list? I look forward to hearing what people think.

Many thanks,



Looking good I would say, you did your research.

Mother, Claygate Pearmain and Blue Pearmain are bad apples here (rots) but they could be fine where you are. I don’t find Westfield SNF all that exciting.

Note that Hubbardston is a late apple. Reine des Reinettes is also late. Later apples are more disease-resistant and also keep through winter giving ~5 months to eat them, my feeling is you want half in the late category for that reason. I would consider adding GoldRush and Pomme Gris.


Hi Jamie,
I am not qualified to answer your questions since I’ve just started to graft older varieties.

However, I want to mention a few things.

  • Have you check out a thread called “Scotts apple variety experience 2005-2015”. Although @scottfsmith lives two zones warmer, his review is valuable.
  • you may want to call Fedco Seeds nursery and talk to an experienced nursery man there. Fedco offers a lot of heirloom apples and seems to know their stuff.
  • not wanting to spray chemical at all, you would need to avoid varieties that are susceptible for Cedar Apple Rust and scab.
  • just keep in mind, older varieties do not always mean better. There are several new varieties that are disease resistant and tasty, too.

Roxbury Russet… Roxbury Russet… Roxbury Russet…

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Ginger Gold does well there. It is a Virginia apple, but the first time I tasted it was at Poverty Lane in New Hampshah.

Macoun and Calville Blanc D’hiver also taste delicious when grown in that region, if you can stave off the scab and fireblight.

Macoun is an apple in the McIntosh school, but towers above all other Mac types in my mind on account of its exceptional juiciness and flavorfulness. Macoun is not pronounced Ma-COON. It is pronounced Mah-COW-ehhn.

Calville is a neat antique variety from France. High in Vitamin C, it has a unique spritely effervescent flavor. The large fruit has a strikingly ribbed shape often accompanied by a blushed cheek.



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Golden russet!!

Thank you to everyone for the helpful (and enthusiastic) suggestions!

@mamuang: I’m happy to report that I have read Scott’s apple report (and the thread that goes with it) - quite possibly because I saw you recommend it somewhere else… And it was definitely a really big help. So, let me take the opportunity to thank Scott for the report, and you for the recommendation.

Thank you also for specifying that scab and CAR are likely to be the main disease concerns here (though other things can crop up, of course). I was aware that scab was the main disease issue in this region, but not sure about CAR - we do have a fair amount of juniper and arbor vitae in our neighborhood (both potential carriers, I think?), so that will be something to keep in mind. (And a concern with Goldrush, unfortunately.)

I also appreciate the reminder that older is not necessarily better. I do have a tendency to fall for apples with “good stories” (so to speak), and I’m aware that this might not lead to the most practical decisions… But I have tried to eliminate apples with bad reputations for disease (such as Cox and Spitzenberg) or lack of appeal to modern tastes (such as Sheepnose/Black Gilliflower). And I have included Kidd’s and Hoople’s, both more modern apples. With quirky names. I really am hopeless in this regard…

@scottfsmith: Scott, thank you very much for your comments on specific varieties. I remember seeing Mother on one of your top lists, which struck me as pretty high praise, considering how many apples you grow. Unfortunate about the rots, though as you say, that may be relatively less of a problem here, and I’m aware that while it can be very good at its best, it can be inconsistent from year to year. It is supposed to be resistant to scab, though. Mother and Hubbardston both stood out to me as apples that were described as having a milder but still distinctive and pleasant taste, which seemed like it would appeal to my wife in particular.

I’m interested to hear that Hubbardston and Reine des Reinettes are both later and better keepers than I thought they were. Curiously, Scott Farm in southern Vermont, about 40 miles north of us, puts their harvest date for Hubbardston at September 8 and for RdR at September 21. In the big picture, I appreciate your point about the value of later apples (and was feeling that I was a little light in that category). Does Pomme Gris fit that description, in your experience? Again, I’ve seen it described elsewhere as being neither particularly late nor a particularly good keeper, though a very good apple in its season.

Sadly, Alan has also provided a disappointing review of Westfield SNF, though he did allow that the ones he sampled may have been sufficiently thinned. As you may be aware, Beach gives high marks to both the tree and the fruit (which he grades as “very good to best”), with the caveat that it’s only at its best within a pretty limited territory, which happens to be where we live here. It also gets good reviews from Burford, Jacobsen, and Adam’s Apples. So, I am still inclined to give it a try - but I can’t say I haven’t been warned if it doesn’t work out…

@Matt_in_Maryland: I guess that would make three Roxbury Russets, then? Seriously, I’ve noted your enthusiasm for RR in other threads, and it does sound like it would be a really good choice for us, and might well merit more than one spot in our fence. Though it’s also one of several triploids in my list, so I might do well to include a good pollinator as well. Am I right in remembering that you’re high on Grimes Golden as well? And does Hoople’s share the pollinating capability of Golden Delicious?

@Chikn: Is the next line, “Golden Russet who?” Or, I guess, which? I’ll have to track down that thread. This one is on my radar, though something (insect concerns?) had bumped it off my short list for the time being.

@JesseS: I know Baldwin is a New England classic that some people continue to hold in high regard, but I’ve seen conflicting reports about its growability. On the one hand, I’ve read the Fedco description that credits it with resisting both insects and disease. On the other hand, Beach mentions that it has problems with scab, and Orange Pippin describes it as having poor disease resistance with some susceptibility to everything but CAR. I take it that your experience has been on the positive side with that? I suppose I would have to try it here to find out how it would do for me, but I’m not sure I’m ready to put it on my short list, for now.

Thanks again, everyone!


Hi Jamie, Pomme Gris kept well for several months, but beyond that they got mealy and soft. Its also a mid-late, not a late ripening apple (about with Westfield SNF in my orchard). Hubbardston Nonesuch is a better keeper than Pomme Gris but is not up to RdR or other great keepers.

Apples are definitely climate dependent so by all means give Westfield SNF a go. It was a fine apple for me, not bad at all, just not a standout.

I’m just lukewarm on Grimes.

I would imagine Hoople’s is just as good a pollinator as Golden Delicious, of which it is a russeted sport, but I don’t really know. I just planted Hoople’s this past fall.

I am a novice apple man, but the house we bought already had a large Golden Delicious tree in the yard. Following the wisdom on this forum, I pruned the tree last year, thinned the fruit, bagged hundreds of apples, and very minimally sprayed. Those apples are the best I have ever eaten–sharing nothing in common with the store-bought ones except for the name.

As it so happens, just a couple hours ago, we ate an apple crisp with ice cream. The apples came from that tree. They had been in storage for 3 months already.

Golden Delicious – exceptional flavor,.universal pollinator, general purpose fruit, decent storage life. It’s worth considering.


Foe a very late apple, Yates!

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Hi Scott, thanks for the additional details, they’re very helpful. Your reports on Hubbardston definitely helped to put it on my list (and looking back at your notes on other apples that had come through well for you, I think maybe I should take a longer look at Lamb Abbey and Adams Pearmain as well).

I’m impressed that Pomme Gris has done so well for you, as I’ve seen it described elsewhere (Jacobsen, I think) as a northern apple that didn’t translate well to warmer regions. And actually, it’s a decent recommendation to hear that Westfield did fine for you, even if no better, as Beach suggests that it’s pretty persnickety about growing conditions (preferring lighter soils).

Thank you for the clarification on Grimes, Matt. I must have misremembered. That would be great if Hoople’s does the pollination work of Golden Delicious, though. Pollination may be one of the things that I’m sweating more than I need to be, but I’m conscious of having a number of triploids on my list. As far as Macoun and Calville Blanc go, I’ve heard they’re great apples, and I can well believe it. I’ll keep them in mind, and if I’m able to get a few trees going and things are looking good, I might look at trying some things that are a little more high-risk (not that the varieties I’m looking at so far are necessarily bullet-proof).

Al, it sounds like you bought the right house! Those apples sound terrific. Out of the basic grocery-store apples I remember eating as a kid, Golden Delicious was definitely my favorite (which, ok, may not be saying much), and I’ve heard that home-grown, and particularly the older strains, is way, way better. That’s part of the reason for my interest in Hoople’s, which I found out about from Scott’s reviews.

Wombles, I have to confess I don’t know much about Yates, but is that one of the old southern apples. That would be another area to look into - I’ve read good things here and elsewhere about the Limbertwigs, for quality and disease resistance.

Thanks again for the insights and suggestions! Keep them coming, if you’ve got them!

While I’m thinking about it, I just wanted to add a general question about a few more old New England apples that I’ve been looking into. They are:

American Beauty
Pumpkin Russet
Hunt Russet
Windham Russet

I’ve read the descriptions in some of the usual places (Burford, Jacobsen, Fedco, etc.), but I’m wondering if anyone here has experience with any of these.

I would also be curious to know if anyone knows anything about two more apples that originated here in Western Massachusetts. One is Wheeler’s Golden Russet (described in Burford’s Apples of North America - apparently a sport of one of the Golden Russets, and distinct from the English Wheeler’s Russet) and the other is Parson (mentioned in Beach). Both sound like potentially good apples, and the local heritage aspect is something that interests me.

Thanks for any information you may have!

I would not sweat the pollination at all, you are covered over several times. Apples want to reproduce, you don’t need to work too hard to help it!

Yates probably ripens too late for you, its almost too late for me. But you could probably do well with Black Limbertwig or some of the other old southern apples.

Re: the other varieties you mention, I have Pumpkin Russet and Hunt Russet but neither has fruited so far.


Have you considered Northern Spy? It’s an old New England apple and for people who like it, they will rhapsodize over it. It’s supposedly a great multi-purpose apple, good for fresh eating, cooking, and making cider with. I read it was a bit long to come into bearing but on dwarf rootstock, that shouldnt be nearly the problem as with standard.

It supposedly keeps pretty well too.

I was intrigued by it. I would never try to grow it here as it is reportedly susceptible to fire blight. (Not a problem in NE, right?) I’d think if you want a quintessential antique New England apple, the Northern Spy should be a consideration.

Is there a reason you didn’t want to grow it?

Nice list of choices you have there.There are a lot of good heirloom varieties available. I would do a little more reading about some of the apple varieties you are considering. Look at more than just one or two sources is what I mean. Not just catalog descriptions. They never tell you the down side to them.There are several books I use as reference that mainly have to do with apples grown in the NE USA. FEDCO is very good to buy from with their NE heirloom apples. I also really like their catalogs and the cartoon pictures they use in them.
I just started my small orchard about 3 years ago. I am in zone 5 as well. A lot of great choices for that zone.
Do not get Baldwin- may freeze out with bad temps- IMO
Black Oxford is nice apple.
Claygate Pearmain
Roxbury Russet
I would get a King of Pippins rather than a Rhine De Reinette. They say it is the same apple but I’ve seen both and the King Of Pippins tastes better to me. These two apples look different side by side in color as well.
Good luck!!

Here is a description for yates, however at my farm, it ripens closer to the first of November

YATES has other names: Jates, Red Warrior and Yates Winter. It originated with Matthew Yates of Fayette County, Georgia, about 1844. Small in size and oblate conic in shape, the pale-yellow skin is striped and flushed dark-red and covered with small gray dots. The yellowish-white flesh is juicy, tender, and sweet, and often strained red just under the skin. It is very necessary to thin the fruit to increase the size. The medium-green, oval leaves are shiny, waved and sharply serrated. Highly suitable for cider making as well as dessert, Yates stores exceptionally well and ripens in October.

I’m very simple when it comes to apple varieties here in Maine. For our U-Pick orchard we are only going with the 3 most popular varieties with customers in our area: Honeycrisp, McIntosh, and Cortland.

Another one to spread the season is Wealthy, ripens in late summer-early fall and does so successively over a few weeks, not so good for a commercial palnting, but great for a homestead. Okay keeping for an early apple. Good subacid flavor for snacking and cooking, fresh cider, precocious, natural semi dwarf and decently resistant to pest and disease.