GROWING AN APPLE TREE
An apple is a sweet, edible fruit produced by an apple tree (Malus pumila). Apple trees are grown worldwide and have been cultivated by humans for thousands of years.
There are over 7,000 varieties of apples grown for reasons as wide ranging as fresh eating to cider making, so it is important to choose one that is right for your area and needs. Apple trees became popular in the 17th century after being imported to America by early settlers due to their versatility, ease of preservation, and the high value of apple cider. By the mid-1800s apple fruits, especially cider apples, would become the most common fruit grown in America.
Apple cider remained extremely valuable until the prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s that outlawed all forms of alcoholic beverages, leading to the removal of the majority of America's older cider apple orchards. Modern day apples are no less popular however and thanks to fruit historians, and avid enthusiast, many of our old heritage varieties are making a come back!
Choosing a Variety
Centuries of cultivation and selection have given us a wide variety of apples, both large and small, for many different uses. Different apple tree varieties have different pollination requirements and the fruits have a wide range of textures and uses in your kitchen including fresh eating, jam making, drying, baking, sauces, salsas, chutneys, vinegars, and making alcoholic beverages. Many apples are "dual-purpose", meaning they Below is a brief list of the different types of apple trees you can plant and cultivate in your own orchard.
Many modern apples found commonly stocked in supermarkets and at fruit stands are considered fresh eating apples, prized for their texture, flavor, color, and aroma - all factors that come together to create a the transcendent experience of biting into a fresh apple. Many fresh eating apples are also prized for their self life, allowing for long periods of storing and shipping. Some fresh eating apples are meant to be eaten as soon they are ripe, while others are best eaten after a period of a month or longer in storage. Classic fresh eating apples include Honeycrisp, Cherry Cox, and Williams' Pride, and Akane apples.
- Cooking - Cooking apples are found more commonly in Europe than in the United States, where they are still grown commercially and held in great esteem for their intense flavor and texture during and after the cooking process. Cooking apples are typically much more sour, bordering on astringent, and when cooked with a sweetener hold onto their "apple" flavor far better than fresh eating apples. Classic cooking apples include Bramley's Seedling, Wynooche Early, King Edward VII, and Enterprise.
- Cidering - Cidering apples have unique flavor profiles, typically high in acid and tannins, that make them most valuable once pressed and fermented into apple cider. Some cider apples can be used to create "single variety" ciders, while others are best used as part of a mixture of cider apple varieties. The practice of cider making has experienced a resurgence in recent years, making it possible to bring back traditional cidering varieties that were nearly lost due to the destruction of many cidering orchards following prohibition. Classic varieties including Dabinett, Harrison, and Medaille D'Or are becoming more and more common in home orchards and even commercial orchards.
- Crabapples - Crabapples are the workhorses of the orchard. Due to their natural disease resistance and longer than average blooming period, crabapple varieties have long been used as reliable pollinizers for many different kinds of apples. In addition to their value as pollination vectors and pollinator forage, crabapples were bred for their value as flavor components in apple cider. The most famous, and widely planted, crabapple was Hewe's Virginia, which could be found throughout the whole of the early American settlements. Today crabapples, such as Evereste, are planted for their incredible floral displays, while others like Dolgo have been bred for size and flavor.
Size is an important consideration when choosing an apple tree. Apple trees can be narrow or spreading, very tall to 50’ or very manageable at 6-10’, and can be grown in containers, as landscape feature plants, or in an orchard. Modern apple trees are grafted to specific rootstocks that naturally control their size and provide additional resistance to common pests and diseases the grafted cultivar may not have the ability to defend against.
Take a look at this size chart showing apple trees grown on different rootstocks.