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Apple-picking season: What to reach for

by Timber Press on October 4, 2016

in Food, Gardening

Whether you’re heading out to the local u-pick farm, maintaining your home orchard, or making plans to plant your first apple trees, Tom Burford’s guide, Apples of North America, is a must-have, especially in fall. Here are some of the best varieties for planting and picking this season:



Other names: King Phillip, New Spitzenburg, Phillip Rick, Ulster Seedling. Numerous sports and strains exist including Red Jonathan and Double Red.

History: It originated on the farm of Philip Rick in Woodstock, New York (Ulster County), and was first described by Judge Jonathan Buel, who named it for the finder, Jonathan Hasbrouck. When it was introduced around 1826, its similarity to Esopus Spitzenburg (of which it is considered to be a seedling) prompted it to be called New Spitzenburg.

Exterior description: The medium-sized fruit is round but tapering toward the blossom end. Skin is tough yet thin and smooth and dry to the touch. The yellow background is almost completely blushed and striped bright red.

Interior description: The white flesh is firm, tender, and juicy with a sprightly subacid flavor.

Also try:

  • Cameo
  • Pink Pearl


Fall WineFall Wine

Other names: Hawer, House, Hower, Musk Spice, Ohio Wine, Sharpe’s Spice, Sweet Wine, Uncle Sam’s Best, Wine, Wine of Cole.

History: It probably originated around 1832 in the garden of Judge Jonathan Buel in Albany, New York. For many years, it was thought to have been lost to cultivation until it was rediscovered in the 1950s by Fred Ashworth of Heuvelton, New York.

Exterior description: Fruit is medium in size with a roundish-oblate shape. The skin is rich red marbled over clear yellow with brownish-red spots and specks. It is sometimes faintly striped. The apples bruise easily.

Interior description: Juicy and mild, the yellow flesh is sweet and tender with a vinous and subacid flavor. It has a small core.

Also try:

  • Baldwin
  • McIntosh

Pie Making

Ginger GoldGinger Gold

Other names: None. Ginger Gold is a registered trade name of Adams County Nursery, Inc., which tested the apple for genetic stability before releasing it for commercial production; there is also a trademarked cultivar called Mountain Cove.

History: The seedling was discovered in 1980 in the Harvey orchard near Lovingston, Virginia. It was reported to have appeared among a replanted block of Winesap trees that were washed out during the devastating 1969 Hurricane Camille flood. It is speculated that Golden Delicious and Newtown Pippin (which were growing in the vicinity) are parents, although this claim is not scientifically supported.

Exterior description: Fruit is medium to large and round to oblate. The greenish-gold skin turns yellow when fully ripe and the flavor is more sweet than tart.

Interior description: The cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. The flesh is slow to oxidize when cut and the slices hold their shape when cooked.

Also try:

  • Northwest Greening
  • Yellow Bellflower



Other names: Jates, Red Warrior, Yates Winter.

History: It was found around 1844 in Fayette County, Georgia.

Exterior description: A small, oblate to conical apple. It has pale yellow skin that is striped and flushed dark red and covered by small gray dots.

Interior description: The yellowish-white flesh is often stained red just under the skin. It is juicy, tender, spicy, and sweet.

Also try:

  • Chestnut Crab
  • Whitney Crab

Long-Term Storage


Other names: Bentley’s Sweet.

History: Virginia is considered its place of origin. It was listed in a catalog from 1845, but some sources place it in the early 1800s.

Exterior description: Medium to large and roundish with flattened ends. It has smooth yellow skin blushed and striped dull red, as well as inconspicuous dark brown dots. In Apples of New York (1905) Beach states that the stem is short to medium, but apples that I’ve fruited have long stems.

Interior description: The creamy-yellow flesh is fine-grained, crisp, juicy, and sweet.

Also try:

  • Honeycrisp
  • Red Limbertwig


burford_tTom Burford is an orchardist, horticulturist, and nurseryman. He is also a consultant specializing in the restoration, re-creation, and design of orchards at historic sites and private estates, as well as backyard and commercial orchards. He presents lectures, seminars, and workshops nationally, and has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss heirloom apples. Tom’s apple pursuits and adventures take him all over the world, but he returns home to his native Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.


Click image for a look inside this book:


“The long-awaited masterwork by America’s greatest apple expert, Tom Burford, is an invaluable resource for lovers of flavorful and historic apples.” —Los Angeles Times

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