Grow Your Own: Heirloom Apples

In 2012,

My husband and I moved “home” to the top apple growing state:

“More than half of all apples grown in the United States for fresh eating come from orchards in Washington state.”

So of course we have to grow apple trees, right!?

We landed on acreage with an old orchard

(approx. 15 trees – mostly apple with a few pear and cherry).

Our kindly landlord (my dad!) let us roost comfortably on our rental land, appreciative of someone else taking over the old, somewhat neglected trees on a north facing slope. We kept many and are rotating some of them out with new plants over time.


Storage AppleThe current trees are functional in that we get a harvest each year, most of which goes towards apple cider (for vinegar, boiled syrup, hot mulled cider, etc.), some for eating, and several wooden boxes wrapped for storage throughout the year.

Here it is June and we STILL have wrapped apples!

They are “applesauce” quality at this point or wonderful to slice and feed the sheep.

But to be honest, the quality of apples does not “knock my socks off” – they’re lacking pizzazz. Some are really delicious, but it’s all over the board.


A couple years ago we searched locally (Costco) and installed two young trees:

McIntosh is an old variety described as “A crisp red apple with bright white flesh and refreshing sweet flavor.” (Photo – Lancaster, description – Orange Pippin)
One tree with multiple grafts: Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, and Golden Delicious.


This is their first year bearing fruit, finally! 


Still not quite content that we had planted enough new varieties, and after tasting the shockingly tart – amazingly flavorful CRABAPPLE Cider made by our neighbors,

I knew we needed to keep looking!

A visit to Poverty Lane Orchards several years ago provided us with the opportunity to taste-test several unique heirloom varieties.

One in particular caught my fancy with its small size and lavender aftertones:


described as “high-acid, great for cider and eating, small size

Quote: “Wickson is one of our more reliable apples; they ripen late enough to miss the mid-fall heat and always set a good crop. People are expecting them to be tart like a crab, but instead like you knibble them down to the core as the flesh is crisp and very flavorful.
You are correct in suspecting they would make great cider, as they were bred by Albert Etter just for that purpose.

The other one that most fascinated me was the rough-skinned, crisp:


described as “wonderful all-around apple for cider, eating, baking

Who knew there was a Russet apple?

An online search found both of those varieties, shipped to my door

from Vintage Virginia Apples (excellent quality, highly recommended!)

And these trees just happen to be pollinators for each other:


The Virginia trees transplanted so well, I couldn’t help myself, I looked for more:

Mountain RoseA couple years ago, after my aunt and uncle visited Hood River, Oregon on a fall apple tasting trip, they said their favorite one was:


with red flesh – yes, red on the inside!

Quote:The apple is bracingly acidic with the warm sweetness of strawberries. And the fruit’s beauty tops even its flavor.”

 Perhaps will add good color to cider and provide a topic of conversation with guests!?

I found them for sale by One Green World in Oregon and I am soooo excited for them to arrive!!

What’s next – or is this enough – only time will tell.

Do you have a favorite apple variety you recommend?


One thought on “Grow Your Own: Heirloom Apples

  1. Updated to add: One Green World said the plants would not be available until spring 2016! I cancelled my order with them, seeing as I had also read from Dave’s Garden website that the company has several very NEGATIVE reviews. Won’t order from them again…


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