How about these apples?
Of all the crops I have grown, or tried to grow in my own backyard gardens, apples have been the hardest to duplicate in terms of the quality of those grown professionally. Our Hudson Valley region is well- suited for commercial apple production, with Columbia, Duchess and Greene counties having significant acreage devoted to these pome fruit.
My computer’s spell check device thinks that “pome” is a misspelled word, but it actually refers to the type of fruit that are apples and pears. These fruit have many seeds inside them, depending on how well they were pollinated, as compared to “stone” fruit such as peaches, plums and cherries, which have only one seed. Apples were one of the last fruits domesticated by our ancestors because they do not self-pollinate. Apples are propagated by grafting or “budding,”, which is a specialized type of grafting that uses only a single bud from the desired tree. The Chinese are historically credited with perfecting this technique. Apples are often subject to a second and sometimes a third grafting procedure using specific rootstocks.
There are thousands of named apple varieties and dozens of different types of rootstocks that are adapted to differing soil conditions. Specific types of rootstocks are also used to determine the size
of the tree. “Standard” rootstocks result in trees that may be 20 feet or more tall and may require 10 years or so to reach full productivity. Dwarfing rootstocks can produce trees that are only 6 feet tall and may even be trained to grow on a trellis, like grapes. These dwarf or semi-dwarf trees often bear fruit a couple of years after planting.
One of the very best apples for fresh eating, salad, sauce and freezing is Jonamac. This apple is usually harvested about Sept. 20. Macintosh is a traditional fresh-eating favorite of many people, but it is rated as only fair for sauce and baking and poor for freezing. It also ripens in late September.
As we enter early October, the choice of excellent apple varieties increases. Spartan, Cortland, Macoun and Jonathan all ripen during the first week of October, and they are all rated as excellent for fresh eating.
Cortland is also a wonderful apple for pies.
Rhode Island Greening and Twenty Ounce are large apples that are best reserved for sauce, baking and freezing. During mid-October, my favorite varieties ripen. Empire is a wonderful allpurpose apple, and Jonagold is my favorite for eating fresh. Empire is a cross between Macintosh, and Red Delicious and has the best features of each. Jonagold is a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious and has large fruit that also makes great pies.
Red Delicious ripens about mid-October also, but I don’t care for the flavor or texture of this variety, and the trees are especially difficult to train in a backyard garden. Toward the end of the month, we have Northern Spy (very hard to grow at home) and Golden Delicious (easy and somewhat resistant to rust). Both of these are excellent all purpose fruit. Idared, Rome and Mutsu (now called Crispin) end the season with a late October harvest date.
Mutsu is the best of these three, if you don’t mind a green-skinned apple, but both Idared and Rome are also good for baking, sauce, salads and freezing. Most of these varieties are available at local Roadside strands and farm markets right now, as well as some other, new varieties such as “Gala” and “Honey Crisp”. Remember that it is generally far less expensive to purchase apples locally then to try to grow them yourself.