Rare apple varieties - best tasting?

I have room to plant one more apple tree. I am deciding between 3 Tennessee Heirloom apples (Smokey Mt. Limbertwig, Ben Lomond limbertwig or Fugate) or Hudson Golden Gem or Hawaii (Gravenstein x Yellow Delicious cross).
I like larger fruit, great for fresh eating with a good sweet-tart balance (I hate “mild” tasting fruit - which is a nice way of saying bland), with good disease resistance to cedar rust. I am in zone 7a (Tenn.).
Thanks for sharing g your experience.

Hawaii I view as improved Golden Delicious, it is more aromatic. So if you like GD you would like that one, and if not I would pass. Hudsons Golden Gem doesn’t like heat at all so I would pass if you are hot there in the summer like I am. I never grew the other ones you mention. Reine des Reinettes is another good one to consider, it gets pretty large if thinned well and has what I would say is the perfect sweet/tart balance. It never got CAR too bad in my orchard.

Both Hawaii and Reine des Reinettes I have recently added trees on MM111, they are on my “keepers” list. I additionally have the russet sport of RdR, King Russet, going on a full-sized stock. It is hard to find but is if anything even tastier than RdR.


I haven’t tasted a Smokey Mountain ,Ben Lomand or Fugate yet :grinning: but I can recommend Myers Royal or Red Royal Limbertwigs, both have a wonderful sweet-tart flavor right off the tree.


Great to know! I have recently planted Red Royal LT and Myers Royal LT.

This is the kind of fruits I like so I grow Meiwa kumquats, hardy Chicago figs. I pick my peaches while they are still crisp and eat them like apples. and native wild raspberries as well as mulberries.

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Ben Lomond was excellent 2 yrs ago for me but last year was just ok.

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Not only that, but they’re both excellent keepers. That’s particularly true of Myers’ RL. I pulled one from my converted-freezer cold storage a few days ago, and it was just as crisp and delicious as if fresh-picked. They keep better than GoldRush, and that’s saying something.


Red Royal was one of my favorite apples last year. Great fresh eating.


Thanks for the observations! I decided to plant Hawaii. Others recommended it too as great for fresh eating.
I need to get some scions of Reine des Reinettes to graft onto a limb of an established apple tree to try them out as well.

I don’t care about fruit size too much except that some varieties like Jonagold and Honeycrisp get too big to finish at one time for me. Applenut used to rave about King David. As a grower in the Santa Cruz area on the west coast, his conditions are very different than my fairly inland S. NYS location and over 3,000 miles apart. Nevertheless, he touted it as his favorite Winesap type which tends to put it in the category of tough, disease-resistant apples.

I got my first small crop last year and it came through as one of the best 5 varieties. I often regret recommending varieties based on one harvest, later on, but it never stops me. However, this is a small apple. If it turns out to be reliably annual it will remain on my top 5 list. Last season had a terribly cool and wet spring and many varieties that are usually reliably annual for me have no flowers- King David does.

It has a complex flavor that is more sweet than tart- sweeter than Winesap or Ark Black- two of its cousins.


If you need RdR next winter and can’t find it just PM me. Also you might consider King Russet, the russet sport, if you like russets.

@alan I also like King David a lot and it is indeed pretty small which I suspect is the main reason why it is not more popular. People like their monster apples. Unfortunately for some reason it was getting some strange kind of fireblight in my orchard so I had to pull it.

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I’ve never had a single FB strike on apple trees in my own orchard- pears yes, but very minor ones. I will not be shocked if things start getting worse as growing seasons get warmer and longer. Springs have been very wet for about 4 years in a row and I wonder if this isn’t a temporary streak or something more permanent.

I also like Wickson, which is very reliable in annual production. Now that’s small, but I don’t care because it seems to concentrate its flavor. It might also contribute to annual production.

@alan , I agree with wet springs here in SE mi. as well. Hopefully it is a temporary thing.


I had mistakenly assumed Russet King and King Russet were one and the same. I now understand Russet King is a rusetted sport of Thompkins County King and King Russet is a russeted sport of RdR. Can you confirm I have this correct now? Thanks in advance.

King Russet is definitely a russet sport of RdR, it is clear from the fruits. I don’t know about Russet King. I can see how that would be confusing.

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