John Chapman was the real name of Johnny Appleseed. In the early 1800’s, from western Pennsylvania through Ohio and into Indiana he planted what was literally a boat load of apple seeds. Where is someone like that when you need a good Secretary of Agriculture?
Fortunately, the question of what varieties of apples can be grown in the home garden, although completely unrelated, is much easier to answer.
Customers come into our market and often, when faced with a wide choice of apples, they ask what is my favorite variety of apple, in an attempt, I think, to make their decision easier. Most often though, when I tell them what my favorite is, they end up buying something else. That’s okay because it’s fun to grow more than one variety and I need people to buy ‘em.
Golden Delicious would be my first choice as an apple to grow if I could only grow one tree. Self pollinating, it produces fruit that is excellent for any use — eating, pies, sauce, etc. While it does have to be sprayed to achieve edible fruit, it is less susceptible to diseases than some other varieties and it grows in a manner that is easy to train.
If there is room for more than one tree in your garden, there are many more varieties to choose from. Rambo is a summer apple ripening around August 1st. Its fruit is large, green, hard, tart, excellent for cooking and good for eating if you like tart apples. The tree is a very vigorous grower and it might need more room in the garden than other varieties. Gala is a relatively new variety and ripens in our area around August 25th. It’s very sweet and crunchy for eating, but small. Smokehouse and Grimes Golden are excellent flavorful, tart greenish apples ripening in early September that do well in our area. Jonathan, also tart, do well in this area, becoming dark red if left on the tree till mid or late September. Jonagold, Crispin (also known as Mutsu) and Nittany – all with Golden Delicious parentage are excellent, mildly sweet apples that ripen in early October. For a late apple that will keep well into the winter, Winesap and Black Twig are both a good choice if you like those hard, tart apples.
Apples that might be avoided are those that are more susceptible to diseases such as Red Delicious. McIntosh apples don’t color well this far south and often fall from the tree before they are ripe. Empire, closely related to McIntosh would be a better choice since it hangs on the tree better and keeps better after it is picked. Stayman Winesap is a great apple but we loose a lot of the fruit every year because the skin of the fruit cracks after rainstorms. Granny Smith is a long season apple that will taste green when its picked at the end of October, and they won’t look like the ones in the store either. The fruit on our trees are bumpy and have a pinkish blush, but the flavor, a couple weeks after being picked is fair, but not as good as the Black Twig.
Next to read: Growing Good Fruit