It’s Apple season! One of the most highly anticipated treats for a gardener is plucking a fresh Apple from your tree that you grew yourself and taking a bite out of it while it's still warm from the sun!
The last thing you want is for that first bite to be sour, bitter, or pithy! So which are the best Apples for fresh eating and how will you know when your Apples are ripe?
Check out some of the best fresh-eating Apples for your home orchard!
Everyone is familiar with the usual super sweet Fuji and Gala Apples, the aptly named Red and Golden Delicious, and of course the huge crispy sweet Honeycrisp varieties that are sold in grocery stores, but maybe you are looking for something a bit different!
Despite being a regular in the grocery stores, coming out of storage before being shipped to the grocery store does not provide the excellent sweet and tart flavor experience that comes from a fresh-picked Honeycrisp from your own backyard! This Apple was bred primarily for taste and its ability to grow in extreme cold. With larger cells than other Apples, the Honeycrisp literally explodes with sweet juice when you bite into it. Beautiful skin is snappy, yet thin, - a perfect complement to the crisp flesh - which has just the right balance between sweetness and acidity. The Honeycrisp Apple has an excellent sweet and tart flavor. Plant with one of the Honeycrisps' many pollination partners to ensure a big harvest.
Sweet and petite, the kid-sized fruit of the Pink Lady Apple, sometimes called the Cripps Pink, is a lovely blushed fruit with a firm, sweet-sharp flavor and wonderful fragrance. The scented white flowers give way to a late-season harvest of orange-pink blushed yellow skin and creamy yellow flesh that resists browning once sliced. These medium-large apples are firm and aromatic, with what some say is a fragrance of pear or cider. Biting into the yellow-tinted, white flesh will create a flavor explosion. Crisp and juicy, the effervescent flavor is that of an apple, but with a distinctive taste of melon and just a hint of citrus. A subtle dash of tartness gives it just enough zing to tantalize your taste buds The fruit ripens in October to November, extending your joy of harvest time when other fruits have completed their season.
Slow to discolor once sliced, the Cortland Apple Tree is a sweet, white-fleshed fruit that is soft and easy to eat, but is also great for fresh preparation and in salads. This Heirloom is a mid-season variety with yellow and red stripes, and fragrant white blossoms! Sweet and crispy, this Apple is slow to brown when sliced and is typically ripe in late September through October depending on your growing zone. Cortland is ready to harvest just in time for late summer barbecues, get-togethers, and back-to-school lunch boxes!
All round and incredible, Braeburn Apples (Malus 'Braeburn') are crisp and juicy, fresh-eating Apples but also are fantastic as grade-A baking and dessert Apples! You'll enjoy their sweet flavor combined with a tart edginess that really brings out the one-of-a-kind tang that Braeburn exudes. These are medium to large, round apples that are bi-colored yellow and green with red striping and a dark-red blush. The firm-textured interior flesh is creamy white, juicy, and crispy with a sweet-tart flavor! Known for high yields and vigorous growth.
You'll praise the crimson red skin and its dove-white flesh of the Empire Apple tree! The unique taste offers a contrast to other fresh-eating apples and is one that you may remember from your childhood - sweet and desert-like, easily preferable to the snacks that you might reach for in the vending machine. The early spring white blossoms are fragrant and this compact tree will produce many smaller Apples, but with thinning, you will harvest much larger fruit.
Any Apple when picked fresh from your own homegrown tree at peak ripeness will be an amazing treat to eat fresh out of hand!
Besides these amazing Apples above, the Mutsu, Ginger Gold, Cameo, Gala, Haralson, Jonathan, Fuji, Red and Golden Delicious, and McIntosh are all well-regarded fresh-eating Apples too! Plus many are fantastic pollinator partners for the above 5 fresh-eating Apples listed above.
While some of these trees are known to be self-fruitful or even partially self-pollinating, everyone does better with a friend! By planting in groupings, or linear hedgerows, and in high-density plantings, you’ll enjoy a far larger harvest per tree when planting your Apple with a pollination partner planted nearby.
Knowing when your Apple variety is typically ripe is the first step. It helps to know if you are growing an early, mid, or late-maturing Apple so you have an idea of when to start checking. Different apple varieties have different ripening dates, and those dates can vary from year to year depending on the weather.
While picking one and taking a bite can let you know if it's time to harvest, there are a few other indicators that let you know when the time is right.
Look for unbruised Apples that feel firm and heavy in your hand. The fruit should be firm and richly colored. The Apple should come off the tree easily when slightly pulled back from the fruiting spur on the tree. Cut the Apple in half to check for white flesh and if the seeds are brown. Then taste it … it should not be strongly sour or pithy.
Your local County Extension Office can be a good source for knowing when Apples are ripening in your area so check with them.
Check out all of Nature Hills' #ProPlantTips on caring and maintaining your Apple tree for the healthiest plants, the most fruit, and a long lifetime of fruit!
Get ready for all the fresh sliced snacks, lunchbox treats, salads, dried apple chips, caramel apples, and charcuterie boards that you can think of! Here are Nature Hills' Top 5 best fresh-eating Apples you may not see in stores!
All of Nature Hills’ fruiting trees and shrubs are shipped with mature 3-4-year-old root systems so you’ll enjoy fruit sooner! Find all these fresh-eating Apple Tree varieties and more here at Nature Hills Nursery!