Consider thoroughly which cultivars to plant. The first consideration is to determine how you intend to sell the fruit. Roadside markets, pick your own, and, to some extent, wholesale fresh market growers all need a continual supply of products. Therefore, it is important to choose cultivars that will accommodate an extended marketing period.
Information about various cultivars and their ripening sequences can be found in nursery catalogs. Information is also published periodically in the Register of New Fruit and Nut Cultivars by the American Pomological Society in the HortScience Journal. Additional information and images of the cultivars are available at the eXtension web site.
The cultivar market has changed with the release of cultivars that have restrictions on the sale of the trees and/or the fruit. "Club" or "controlled supply" cultivars have been established to control oversupply in the market and enhance the dollar return to the grower. These restrictions can take multiple forms. Some cultivars are restricted geographically by only allowing certain areas to grow the fruit. Some are restricted by marketing constraints where the fruit must meet a minimum quality standard to be labeled. Many apple cultivars are being named or given selection numbers, then trademarked under another name. The advantage of this approach is that a trademark, unlike a patent never expires. Finally, some cultivars may be restricted by only allowing a certain number of trees to be propagated, thereby controlling the overall supply of the fruit. Pacific Rose and Jazz are two club cultivars that require the grower to pay an "entrance fee"--purchase the trees then pay a percentage of the gross returns to a marketing firm. Kiku Fuji is another club cultivar that has no entrance fee, but in order to label the fruit Kiku Fuji, fruit must be graded to specific standards and marketed through a licensed broker. Common current apple cultivars grown in the United States or Canada that are managed in some form include Pink Lady, Tentation (Delblush), Ambrosia, Piñata, Jazz™ (SciFresh), Sundowner, Envy™ (sciLate), SweeTango, Cosmic Crisp™ (WA 38), and Aurora Golden Gala.
Before setting out large plantings of a new strain or cultivar, always plant a few trees on a trial basis. Also try to visit or talk to growers who may already have bearing fruit of a particular cultivar.
Many of the new cultivars are being introduced from Europe, New Zealand, and Japan. The marketplace is shifting, with more emphasis on taste and quality. Produce managers are looking for different color combinations to use in displaying apples. Following are comments from around the country on some of the cultivars being planted. Additional information can be found in the Tree Fruit Production Guide . The harvest dates suggested should produce apples with the most flavor. These periods will probably not coincide with harvest dates that are optimal for extended storage. The following are brief synopses of some of the more prominent cultivars.
Akane was developed in Japan as a cross between Jonathan and Worcester Permain. The fruit is medium to small in size, round to oblate, and dark red. It matures one week ahead of Jonathan. Storage life is only about 3 weeks.
Ambrosia was a chance seedling in an orchard in British Columbia. The parentage is believed to be a combination of Delicious and Golden Delicious and the fruit favors the conical shape of Delicious. Originally released to the general public, it was shortly placed under restrictions that limited its planting to Canadian growers. The U.S. restrictions are due to expire in June 2017. Trees are upright growing and difficult to spread. The growth habit is that of a semi-spur and branches break out easily when trying to spread them. Fruit is fine grained and sweet with a smooth red over yellow finish with no russeting. Fruit matures in late September to early October. The fruit are easy to thin in the spring with chemical thinners.
Arlet, also known as Swiss Gourmet, was developed in Switzerland as a cross between Golden Delicious and Idared. Apples are medium to large, round to conical, and brightly red striped. Harvest is reportedly 10 days sooner than that of Jonathan, but there is discrepancy in the literature. Fruit appearance has been very poor in the NE-183 planting at Rock Springs. Based on this, we are not recommending planting of Arlet.
Blondee was originally tested as MO 1040 by International Plant Management. It is a limb sport of Kidd's D-8 Gala that ripens one week before Gala. It is a completely yellow apple with Gala texture and Golden Delicious flavor. Storage is approximately 2 months in regular atmosphere. The cream-colored flesh of the fruit shows good resistance to browning.
Braeburn is a chance seedling from New Zealand most likely of Granny Smith parentage. Fruit are oval, small to medium, with slightly red shoulders over a green background. Braeburn has a long storage life. Red mutations are being discovered, primarily in New Zealand. Common strains along with their fruit surface coloration pattern are Kumeu Crimson (striped), Joburn (striped), Hillwell (striped), Eve (blush), Redfield (blush), and Lochbuie (blush). There is disagreement over its exact maturity date. One source places maturity around Rome Beauty season. These maturity differences may be related to nitrogen fertilization practices and strains. The cultivar is very precocious and growers should be careful not to fruit the trees too soon. Trees at Rock Springs have not been very productive and may be overly sensitive to either spring frosts or chemical thinners.
Cameo was originally introduced as Carousel and was also tested as Wenatchee 66. It is a chance seedling of unknown parentage. The fruit is an attractive bright red striped over a yellow-green ground color. Fruits are round to slightly elongated and medium to large in size. The flesh is firm and creamy white. Flavor has been reported as sweet-tart and well received by consumers. Storage life is reported to be up to 1 year in CA storage. Fruit matures in mid-October, after Delicious and about the same time as Braeburn.
Cortland was developed at Cornell from a cross of Ben Davis and McIntosh made in 1898. The fruit are roundish oblate, attractively red colored, with a heavy bloom. Trees tend to be precocious and set heavy crops. Being a tip bearer, growth habit is similar to that of Rome Beauty. Standard Cortland may not color well in southern Pennsylvania. Therefore, two new strains having exceptional coloring capability, Redcort and Royal Court, are recommended for planting.
Creston was developed in British Columbia as a Golden type. Fruit is medium to large with a green color that occasionally has a red shoulder. Flesh texture is firm and fine-grained. Fruit ripen around the middle of September in central Pennsylvania.
Cripps Pink (Pink Lady®) is the correct name of the apple cultivar that is being marketed as Pink Lady. When trees are purchased, the grower receives a royalty-free license from Pink Lady America LLC, allowing the grower to use the Pink Lady name. It was developed in western Australia from a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams. The fruit are medium in size and oblong in shape. The apple has a pink blush over a yellow background with cream-colored flesh. It has very firm flesh and has a long storage life. Trees are vigorous and upright growing, and are susceptible to fire blight. Most locations in Pennsylvania, however, do not have a long enough growing season to adequately mature the fruit. In central Pennsylvania fruit are harvested still immature around November 5.
Criterion is a chance seedling found in a Delicious and Golden Delicious orchard in Washington. Fruit are medium to large with a shape similar to that of Delicious. It is a clear yellow with an occasional red blush. Fruit mature around Rome Beauty season. The flesh is cream colored with a mildly sweet flavor that is juicy and aromatic.
Delicious is not a new cultivar, but new strains are available. Considering current economic factors, only spur types are recommended for planting. See the Tree Fruit Production Guide for more information on Delicious strains.
Delblush is a cross between Golden Delicious and Blushing Golden and is known in France as Tentation™. Fruit size is medium and bruises easily. The color is golden yellow with an orange blush over the shoulders. The fruit have a slightly sweet to sub-acid flavor as grown in Pennsylvania. Harvest is approximately 4 days after Golden Delicious.
Earligold is another chance seedling found in Selah, Washington. Fruit size is medium, having a clear yellow finish with little or no russeting. Fruit from plantings in central Pennsylvania mature approximately 5 days before Ginger Gold. Storage life of this fruit was shorter than that of Ginger Gold. At this point, Earligold should be considered primarily for roadside market sales.
Elstar, sometimes also referred to as Lustre Elstar, was developed in Holland as a cross between Golden Delicious and Ingrid Marie. Fruit are medium to large, round to conical, with red striping over a bright yellow background. Elstar matures in early to mid-September and has a medium storage life. In Europe it is marketed as a red blushed Golden Delicious. Fruit from plantings in central Pennsylvania appear nearly solid red. Fruit are heavily russeted across the shoulders.
EverCrisp was developed by the Midwest Apple Improvement Association (MAIA), a private grower funded organization. It is a cross of Fuji x Honeycrisp and resembles its maternal parent Fuji in shape and appearance. Fruit texture is similar to Honeycrisp. Fruit are described as sweet with a long harvest and storage window. To purchase trees the individual must be a member of the MAIA and agree to pay a royalty per tree once they begin producing.
Fortune was developed by Cornell University and was tested as NY429. Fruit are large to very large with an attractive overall red color. The flesh is creamy white, and the tree may tend toward biennial bearing. It is large to very large with an attractive overall red color. The flesh is creamy white, and the tree may tend toward biennial bearing. At present we do not know how it will perform in the warmer areas of the state. It is recommended for trial only in areas where McIntosh is grown.
Fuji was developed in Japan as a cross between Ralls Janet and Delicious. Fruit are medium-sized, round to conical. The strong biennial bearing habit of the cultivar makes it imperative that the trees are adequately thinned. This cultivar would be a good candidate for midseason applications of NAA to enhance return bloom. There are a number of early maturing strains of Fuji available, which would allow the cultivar to be grown in nearly all portions of the state. More information on particular Fuji strains can be found in the Tree Fruit Production Guide.
Gala was developed in New Zealand as a cross between Kidd's Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious. Fruit are small to medium in size and uniformly oval to round. The original Gala is pale to golden yellow, with bright red-orange stripes. The fruit mature at the end of August in the southern portions of Pennsylvania. Storage life is rated at approximately 3 to 6 months. Gala requires multiple pickings for best quality.
Ginger Gold is a chance seedling found in a commercial orchard in Virginia. It is sold as an early maturing Golden type, harvested in early to mid-August. Fruit finish is very smooth with little russeting. Storage potential is rated as very good for a summer variety. Trees are very precocious. In test plantings in central Pennsylvania, second leaf trees on M.9 size rootstocks have had up to 15 fruits per tree. Trees are susceptible to powdery mildew. They also tend to be easy to chemically thin.
Golden Supreme is a Golden Delicious-like fruit that occasionally has a pink blush. It is a chance seedling and produces fruit that are pleasantly sweet but better and tarter than Golden Delicious. It is also more vigorous than Golden Delicious. In the NE-183 plantings, it is one of the most attractive-looking apples with very little russet. A drawback is that it has not been very precocious. It may need multiple harvests and tends toward biennial bearing like Golden Delicious.
Hampshire is a chance seedling found in New Hampshire that is being evaluated in the 1999 NE-183 planting. Fruit are medium to large and has a well-colored red surface. It has some McIntosh-looking characteristics. Flowers may have some frost tolerance since this cultivar did not seem to be excessively affected by late frosts in 2002.
Honeycrisp was developed at the University of Minnesota and tested as Minnesota #1711R. Fruit are large with a 50 to 90 percent solid to mottled scarlet red over green. Storage life in common storage has been as long as 6 to 7 months. It is noted for outstanding crispness and juiciness. Leaves of Honeycrisp frequently exhibit a green mottling during the summer due to a build-up of carbohydrates in the leaves. At present, we do not know if the discoloration is affecting production. The trees are not very vigorous and should not be planted on M.9 or B.9 unless they are spaced close together. Several new higher coloring strains are available from various nurseries. For further information on this and the other cultivars recently released, visit the University of Minnesota website.
Jonagold was developed in New York as a cross between Golden Delicious and Jonathan. Although introduced in 1968, Jonagold has become more popular in Europe. Because of this demand, however, it is gaining favor in the United States. Jonagold is rated as one of the best-tasting apples. Fruit are large and conical, similar to Golden Delicious. Jonagold may have only medium storage potential. It is a vigorously growing triploid and therefore cannot be used as a pollen source. It is also intersterile with Golden Delicious. As with Gala, red sports are being released and there is similar concern about marketplace acceptance of noncoloring strains.
Nittany, discovered as an open-pollinated seedling of York Imperial (pollen source most likely was Golden Delicious), has the flesh color, texture, and firmness of York. Fruit have been described as attractive, oblong, and light cherry red, with a good sweet tart flavor. It is a vigorous tree. The major problem seems to be storage and calcium-related disorders.
Orin is a cross of Golden Delicious by Indo developed in Japan. It has the same parentage as Shizuka and Mutsu. Fruit are medium to large, oblong, and yellow-green in color. The flesh is firm, aromatic, juicy, and very sweet. Test plantings at Rock Springs, however, have shown a tendency for prominent markings of the lenticels. This cultivar will probably not be of sufficient quality to be grown in Pennsylvania.
Pink Pearl was developed by a private breeder, Albert Etter, in California and patented by California Nursery Company. The distinguishing characteristic of this cultivar is its pink flesh that is slow to oxidize and a tart flavor. Skin color is a greenish-white translucent color. Trees are susceptible to apple scab and fire blight. It matures the middle to the end of August, and storage life is about two months.
Rubinette is a high-quality introduction from the Swiss breeding program, a cross between Golden Delicious and Cox's Orange Pippin. The fruit have a brilliant red stripe over a golden ground with a faint russet. Fruit are small and have a very sweet flavor with a slight tang and aroma. Tree growth habit is like that of Golden Delicious. It is moderately susceptible to powdery mildew and moderately resistant to apple scab.
Sansa is attractive, crisp, aromatic, medium-sized, and sweet-flavored. It may be stored for up to 2 months. One report says that Sansa is resistant to apple scab. The fruit mature in central Pennsylvania about 2 weeks before Gala. The fruit are good quality for the season. In southern PA and further south conditions may be too warm to produce optimum quality fruit as it may break down while still on the tree. The trees have weak vegetative growth.
Shizuka was developed in Japan from a cross between Golden Delicious and Indo. It has the same parentage as Orin and Mutsu. Fruit are very large with a green to yellow skin that occasionally shows a pink blush. Fruit are sweeter than Mutsu, but fruit quality is not as good. Fruit is harvested in late September. Tree growth is very spreading. Shizuka is being promoted as a replacement for Mutsu because it does not appear to be susceptible to blister spot. It is a triploid, and therefore the pollen is not viable.
Silken is a cross between Honeygold and a numbered selection (8C-27-96) developed at the Summerland Research Centre in British Columbia. It is an early apple, ripening in August. The skin has a soft, yellow, almost translucent quality. Fruit are crisp and juicy. Trees are slow growing, but precocious. Commercial availability is limited.
SnowSweet is a release from the University of Minnesota. It was developed from a cross between Sharon and Connell Red. The flesh is sweet with a hint of tartness and bright white that does not oxidize very easily. Tree growth habit is more willowy. Fruit ripen approximately 2 weeks after Honeycrisp. For further information on this and the other cultivars recently released by the University of Minnesota, go to the UMN website.
Suncrisp (NJ 55) is a large, late season yellow apple, with a striped orange cheek over a lemon yellow ground color. The fruit are conic with crisp yellow flesh, a unique spicy pear flavor, and good storage potential. Harvest season is about one week after Delicious. Trees are very precocious. Fruit quality improves with a short storage period.
Sunrise is a release from British Columbia and ripens just before Gala. Fruit color is an attractive pinkish-red over a yellow ground color. Fruit are medium in size, and flavor is mild to slightly sweet.
Zestar! is a release from the Minnesota breeding program. It is an early season apple that ripens in late August. It was developed from a cross of State Fair x MN 1691. The apples are globose with an average diameter of 3 inches and are typified by a red striping. As a young tree the growth habit is upright. It is susceptible to fire blight. Growers should only make trial plantings of this cultivar. Further information is available at the University of Minnesota website.
Source: Tree Fruit Production Guide (Updated January 2018).