I don’t know about you guys, but I like to root for the underdog. The underdog is typically quirky, and has a unique look and personality. A real one of a kind. Heirloom (also called heritage or antique) apple varieties are the black sheep of the apple world. The fruits have imperfect exteriors laden with spots, strips and different colors. Each varieties’ texture and flavor is different, too. Some are crisp and sweet, while others are tough-skinned and tart.
In recent years, apple enthusiasts have embraced heritage apple varieties. According to Slow Food USA, 11 apple varieties make up over 90 percent of apples grown and eaten in the United States.
“Consider that a century ago, more than 15,000 varieties unique to North America populated our landscape with beautifully striped and spotted skins and names like the Dula Beauty, the Gloria Mundi, and the Newton Pippin. Only one fifth of those varieties survived, with 81 percent of those precious few considered ‘endangered’ on the marketplace.”
That’s just depressing.
Finding Heirloom Apple Varieties
Grocery stores across the nation are now bursting with apples. Good thing, too, because it’s the cusp of apple pie and strudel season! Before heading to the grocery store to purchase a bag of dreary, semi-bruised Red or Yellow Delicious Apples, consider going to your local farmers market, apple orchard or snatch up some apple seeds and plant your own heirloom apple tree.
The following are heirloom apple varieties that can be eaten fresh, baked up or used in apple cider:
This crisp, dense apple is excellent for cooking and for dessert dishes. It’s good fresh, too! The fruit is dark reddish/black in appearance and ripens in mid-October. Expect a tart taste and aromatic, crisp smell. The fruit, when ripe, should feel heavy and firm. Organic Arkansas Blacks are available, too.
The Roxbury Russet is partly russetted and has a light green color. The Roxbury’s flesh is crisp and the fruit is crunchy. The apple tastes nutty, sweet and tart. The Roxbury is good for fresh eating or cooking and is normally harvested in September or early October.
The Winesap is red in appearance. The fruit is tart, tangy, juicy — almost wine-like. Expect an extra-firm feel and crisp texture. The apple is great fresh, served with wine and cheese or when added to salads. It’s also a good cider apple. The Winesap is available in the late fall through the spring.