- Apple Tree Types: What Are Some Common Apple Varieties
- Primary Apple Tree Types
- Common Apple Varieties
- Apple identification
- Red Delicious Was Just Dethroned as America’s Favorite Apple. Here’s the New Favorite
- Red Delicious Reigned for Decades
- Galas Galore: America’s New Favorite Apple
- Core Apple Varieties Include Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp
- Your top 10 varieties
- Top 10 by page hits
- Types of Apples
- How to Buy and Store Apples
- 15 Apple Recipes to Try Tonight
- A Guide to the Most Popular Apple Varieties
- 1. Red Delicious
- 2. McIntosh
- 3. Golden (or Yellow) Delicious
- 4. Gala
- 5. Granny Smith
- 6. Fuji
- 7. Braeburn
- 8. Pink Lady
- 9. Honeycrisp
- 10. Empire
- 11. Opal
- 12. Jazz
- 13. Pinata
Apple Tree Types: What Are Some Common Apple Varieties
If you’ve visited a farmers’ market or produce stand lately, you’ve probably been amazed at the different types of apples – all juicy and delicious in their own way. However, you’re only seeing a tiny sample of the more than 7,500 varieties of apples grown around the world. Keep reading to learn about apple tree types and a few of the most common apple varieties.
Primary Apple Tree Types
Most domestic apples come from two primary apple tree types. In fact, according to the New Sunset Western Garden Book, most apple tree types are natural hybrids of Malus pumila and Malus sylvestris, native to two overlapping areas in southwestern Asia.
Some apple tree types tolerate cold weather as far north as Alaska, while other apple trees prefer milder climates, including coastal climates and low deserts. However, most apple tree types need at least 500 to 1,000 hours of chilly weather to
produce healthy, flavorful apples.
How to identify apple tree varieties? Various varieties are primarily identified by skin color, size, flavor and firmness.
Common Apple Varieties
- Yellow (Golden) Delicious – A sweet, mild apple with bright yellow skin, Yellow Delicious apples are all-purpose apples, good for eating raw or for baking.
- Red Delicious – Very similar to Yellow Delicious, although Red Delicious is not as popular as it once was, due to a rather bland flavor and a mealy texture.
- McIntosh – A bright red apple with a sweet-tart flavor, good for eating raw or cooking into sauce, but doesn’t hold up well for baking.
- Rome – A mild, juicy, slightly sweet apple with bright red skin; flavor improves with sautéing or baking.
- Gala – A heart-shaped, gold apple with a pinkish-orange stripe, Gala is fragrant, crisp and juicy with a sweet flavor; good eaten raw, baked, or cooked into sauce.
- Winesap – An old-fashioned, reddish-violet apple with a spicy flavor; it’s excellent for eating raw and for making cider.
- Granny Smith – A familiar, lime-green apple with a crisp, juicy texture and a tart and tangy flavor; Granny Smith is good raw and works well in pies.
- Fuji – A very sweet, crisp apple with skin that ranges from deep red to greenish-yellow with red highlights, and is good either raw or baked.
- Braeburn – A unique apple with a thin skin and a sweet, tart, slightly spicy flavor; it’s very good for eating raw, also holds up well for baking. Color ranges from red to greenish-gold.
- Honeycrisp – Appropriately named for its moderately crunchy texture and sweet, slightly tangy flavor; good for any purpose.
- Pink Lady – A firm, crunchy apple with a tart, slightly sweet flavor, good raw or baked.
We are often asked if we can help identify unknown apple varieties. Unfortunately apple identification is not usually possible by email. The taste and texture of the apple, as well as leaves and aspects of its provenance are all important in the identification process. However we have a sister website offering tools for online apple identitifcation.
The best way to get your apples identified is to take them along to a local apple festival, where there will often be an expert on hand. The local aspect is important because in the past gardeners tended to plant varieties that they knew about, and which were known to perform in the local climate. However apples vary considerably from one season to the next, and from one tree to the next – and indeed within the same tree depending on exposure to sunlight, so local identification is not always going to be accurate, although it is a good place to start. Remember also that in the past it was not unusual to grow apple trees from pips (“pippins”) rather by grafting from known scion varieties, in which case identification is effectively impossible unless it was subsequently named and propagated (as happened with the famous Cox’s Orange Pippin).
If local identification is not possible, some research stations offer an apple identification service, often for a nominal cost. If you live in the UK you can send samples to the National Fruit Collections for identification – see their website for more details.
When preparing samples, it is best to include 2-3 representative ripe apples, along with a new shoot with leaves. Remember to include details of the provenance and any local detail such as where the tree is growing, and what the tree looks like. Pack the samples in a strong box with insulation to prevent them being damaged – but make sure the packing material does not have any odours that could mask or taint the flavour of the fruit (e.g. do not use a box that has previously held soap or cleaning products).
If you know of other organisations that can carry out fruit identification please contact us.
John Bunker Séan Alonzo Harris
Every fall at Maine’s Common Ground Country Fair, the Lollapalooza of sustainable agriculture, John Bunker sets out a display of eccentric apples. Last September, once again, they covered every possible size, shape, and color in the wide world of appleness. There was a gnarled little yellow thing called a Westfield Seek-No-Further; a purplish plum impostor called a Black Oxford; a massive, red-streaked Wolf River; and one of Thomas Jefferson’s go-to fruits, the Esopus Spitzenburg. Bunker is known in Maine as “The Apple Whisperer,” or simply “The Apple Guy,” and, after laboring for years in semi-obscurity, he has never been in more demand. Through the catalog of Fedco Trees, a mail-order company he founded in Maine 30 years ago, Bunker has sown the seeds of a grassroots apple revolution.
All weekend long, I watched people gravitate to what Bunker (“Bunk” to his friends, a category that seems to include half the population of Maine) calls “the vibrational pull” of a table laden with bright apples. “Baldwin!” said a tiny old man with white hair and intermittent teeth, pointing to a brick-red apple that was one of America’s most important until the frigid winter of 1933-34 knocked it into obscurity. “That’s the best!”
A leathery blonde from the coast held up a Blue Pearmain in wonder. “Blue Peahmain,” she marveled. “My ma had one in her yahd.”
Another woman got choked up by the sight of the Pound Sweet. “My grandmother had a Pound Sweet! She used to let me have one every time I hung out the laundry.”
It wasn’t just nostalgia. A steady conga line of homesteading hipsters—Henry David Thoreau meets Johnny Depp—paraded up to Bunk to get his blessing on their farm plans. “I’ve got three Kavanaghs and two Cox’s Orange Pippins for fresh eating, a Wolf River for baking, and three Black Oxfords for winter keeping, but I feel like there are some gaps I need to fill. What do you recommend for cider?” Bunk, who is 62, dished out free advice through flayed vocal cords that made his words sound as if they were made of New England slate.
Most people approached with apples in hand, hoping for an ID of the tree that had been in their driveway or field ever since they bought the place. Some showed him photos on iPhones. Everywhere he travels in Maine, from the Common Ground Country Fair to the many Rotary Clubs and historical societies where he speaks, Bunk is presented with a series of mystery apples to identify. He’s happy to oblige, but what he’s really looking for are the ones he can’t identify. It’s all part of being an apple detective.
In the mid-1800s, there were thousands of unique varieties of apples in the United States, some of the most astounding diversity ever developed in a food crop. Then industrial agriculture crushed that world. The apple industry settled on a handful of varieties to promote worldwide, and the rest were forgotten. They became commercially extinct—but not quite biologically extinct.
See more apple illustrations in this short history of the seminal 100-year-old book The Apples of New York
Even when abandoned, an apple tree can live more than 200 years, and, like the Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s book, it will wait patiently for the boy to return. There is a bent old Black Oxford tree in Hallowell, Maine, that is approximately two centuries old and still gives a crop of midnight-purple apples each fall. In places like northern New England, the Appalachian Mountains, and Johnny Appleseed’s beloved Ohio River Valley—agricultural byways that have escaped the bulldozer—these centenarians hang on, flickering on the edge of existence, their identity often a mystery to the present homeowners. And John Bunker is determined to save as many as he can before they, and he, are gone.
The key thing to understand about apple varieties is that apples do not come true from seed. An apple fruit is a disposable womb of the mother tree, but the seeds it encloses are new individuals, each containing a unique combination of genes from the mother tree and the mystery dad, whose contribution arrived in a pollen packet inadvertently carried by a springtime bee. If that seed grows into a tree, its apples will not resemble its parents’. Often they will be sour little green things, because qualities like bigness, redness, and sweetness require very unusual alignments of genes that may not recur by chance. Such seedling trees line the dirt roads and cellar holes of rural America.
If you like the apples made by a particular tree, and you want to make more trees just like it, you have to clone it: Snip off a shoot from the original tree, graft it onto a living rootstock, and let it grow. This is how apple varieties come into existence. Every McIntosh is a graft of the original tree that John McIntosh discovered on his Ontario farm in 1811, or a graft of a graft. Every Granny Smith stems from the chance seedling spotted by Maria Ann Smith in her Australian compost pile in the mid-1800s.
The fine points of apple sex were lost on most US colonists, who planted millions of apple seeds as they settled farms and traveled west. Leading the way was John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, who single-handedly planted hundreds of thousands of seeds in the many frontier nurseries he started in anticipation of the approaching settlers, who were required to plant 50 apple or pear trees as part of their land grants. Even if they had understood grafting, the settlers probably wouldn’t have cared: Although some of the frontier apples were grown for fresh eating, more fed the hogs or the fermentation barrel, neither of which was too choosy.
Every now and then, however, one of those seedling trees produced something special. As the art of grafting spread, those special trees were cloned and named, often for the discoverer. By the 1800s, America possessed more varieties of apples than any other country in the world, each adapted to the local climate and needs. Some came ripe in July, some in November. Some could last six months in the root cellar. Some were best for baking or sauce, and many were too tannic to eat fresh but made exceptional hard cider, the default buzz of agrarian America.
Bunk called this period the Great American Agricultural Revolution. “When this all happened, there was no USDA, no land grant colleges, no pomological societies,” he says. “This was just grassroots. Farmers being breeders.” As farms industrialized, though, orchards got bigger and bigger. State agricultural extension services encouraged orchardists to focus on the handful of varieties that produced big crops of shiny red fruit that could withstand extensive shipping, often at the expense of flavor. Today, thousands of unique apples have been lost, while a mere handful dominate the market.
When Bunk lays out his dazzling apple displays, it’s a reminder that our sense of the apple has increasingly narrowed, that we are asking less and less from this most versatile of fruits—and that we are running out of time to change course. Exhibit A: The Harrison apple, the pride of Newark, New Jersey, renowned in the early 1800s for making a golden, champagne-like cider that just might have been the finest in the world. But the Harrison, like most of the high-tannin varieties that make good hard cider, disappeared after Prohibition. (The recent hard-cider revival has been making do largely with apples designed for fresh eating, which make boring cider.) But in 1976 one of Bunk’s fellow apple detectives found a single old Harrison tree on the grounds of a defunct cider mill in Livingston, New Jersey, grafted it, and now a new generation of Harrison trees is just beginning to bear fruit. It’s as if a storied wine grape called pinot noir had just been rediscovered.
From left to right: Rolfe, Wolf River, Yellow Bellflower, Rhode Island Greening, Blue Pearmain, Kavanagh Séan Alonzo Harris
The usual argument for preserving agricultural biodiversity is that monocrops are at risk for monolithic wipeouts from pests and disease. And, indeed, some of the old apples have genes for resistance to apple scab and other scourges of the modern orchard that are proving useful. (Apples require more pesticides than any other crop, and it’s exceedingly difficult to grow modern apple varieties organically.) But don’t discount romance. The world is just a little bit more delightful when we get to experience apples with hundreds of different personalities.
Bunk’s love affair with apples dates to 1972, when he began farming a hardscrabble plot of land in the town of Palermo, Maine, after graduating from Colby College. That first fall, he noticed the apples ripening all over town, on trees that had been started decades ago and were now in their prime, that mostly went ignored. He began picking them.
“I felt like these trees I was finding in my town, and then eventually all over Maine and other places, were a gift to me by someone whom I had never met, who had no idea who I was, who had no idea that I was ever going to be.” Over time, he says, “I started thinking, I got to come to Earth and have this amazing experience of all these trees that were grown and bearing, and all these old-timers who would take me out into their fields and show me things and take me on trips down these old roads. And I would knock on somebody’s door, and the next thing you know I’m eating with them. It was like gift after gift after gift. And I started thinking, do I have any responsibilities with this? Or do I just soak it up and let it go?”
So he founded Fedco Trees, which every year takes a selection of rare heirloom apples and attempts to make them less rare. When he finds one of these missing links, he grafts it onto rootstocks at the Fedco nursery and begins selling the trees a few years later. Bunk estimates that over the past 30 years he has saved anywhere from 80 to 100 varieties from oblivion. His forensic methods involve everything from studying the depth of the cavity around the stem, to checking the trunk for grafting scars, to poring over old nursery catalogs and historical records. He hangs “Wanted” posters at corner stores in the towns where the apples originated, hands them out at historical society meetings. A typical poster reads “Wanted Alive: Narragansett Apple. Last Seen in York County!…Originated on the farm of Jacob H Harmon, Buxton, Me., in 1873.” Then, beneath a drawing and description of the apple, is the plea, “If You Know the Whereabouts of This Apple Please Contact Fedco.” He dreams of finding once-adored apples that haven’t been heard from in a century, like the Fairbanks (the pride of Winthrop, Maine) and the Naked Limbed Greening (a big green sucker from Waldo County). His current Holy Grail is the Blake, a richly flavored yellow apple so tasty it is said to have been exported to England in the 1870s. According to old catalogs and horticulture books, the Blake, with flesh that was “fine, firm, crisp, subacid,” was widely distributed in Maine in the mid-1800s. Blake trees had a distinctive habit of holding onto their apples after most others had dropped theirs. Bunk had been tantalizingly close to a positive Blake ID in December 2011, when an old tree covered with small yellow apples was spotted in a field near Portland, on land that might have been owned by a J.H. Blake in the 1870s, but the tree turned out to be a seedling, the apples didn’t quite fit, and the quest for the Blake continued.
One of Bunk’s best finds was the Fletcher Sweet, which his research indicated had originated in the Lincolnville area. In 2002, he met a group from the Lincolnville Historical Society. They had never heard of the apple, but they knew of a part of Lincolnville called Fletcher Town, which, like many other old villages in northern New England, had since been reclaimed by the forest. A member of the society wrote an article for the local paper saying it was looking for an old apple called a “Fletcher.” A 79-year-old named Clarence Thurlow called the paper and said, “I’ve never heard of a Fletcher, but I know where there’s a Fletcher Sweet.”
Thurlow led Bunk to the abandoned intersection that had once been the heart of Fletcher Town, pointed to an ancient, gnarled tree, and said, “That’s the tree I used to eat apples from when I was a child.” The tree was almost entirely dead. It had lost all its bark except for a two-inch-wide strip of living tissue that rose up the trunk and led to a single living branch about 18 feet off the ground. There was no fruit, but Bunk was interested. A few months later he returned, took a handful of shoots, and grafted them to rootstock at his farm. A year later, both Thurlow and the tree died, but the grafts thrived, and a few years later, they bore the first juicy, green Fletcher Sweet apples the world had seen in years. “It’s a great apple,” Bunk says. “It has a super-duper distinctive flavor.” Today, Bunk has returned young Fletcher Sweet trees to Lincolnville.
This is the magic of apples. You can’t take a graft of Clarence Thurlow and grow a new one, but his tree was easily duplicated and returned to Maine life. Today, I can take a bite out of a Fletcher Sweet and know exactly what Thurlow was experiencing as a boy 80 years ago. I can chomp into a Newtown Pippin and understand what Thomas Jefferson was lamenting in Paris when he wrote to a friend that “they have no apples here to compare with our Newtown Pippin.”
“It’s about apples and it’s not about apples,” Bunk says of his work. “I talk about the history of apples, but you know what? I’m giving a highly political talk, because it’s about our agricultural heritage.”
And that heritage is in jeopardy. Not only has the industrial food system confined us to a meager handful of apple varieties, but many of the new apples being released, like the SweeTango, are “club apples”—intellectual property of those who bred them. Growers must sign a contract that specifies how the trees will be grown and where they can be sold, and they must pay annual royalties on every apple. The days of farmers controlling their own apples may be numbered, and the idea of breaking that chain of knowledge bothers Bunk. “When you and I interact, our ability to be together on Earth is predicated by all the stuff that people did for thousands of years,” he says. “You and I didn’t invent language. You and I didn’t invent clothes, roads, agriculture. It’s up to us to be not just the receivers of what was given to us, but the givers of whatever’s going to come next.”
By the end of the Common Ground Country Fair, I had begun to wonder if there were any more apples to rediscover. Freakish spring weather had produced the worst apple year in recent memory. Many trees had no fruit at all, and fewer people than usual were bringing Bunk their enigmas. We’d seen several Pumpkin Sweets and Roxbury Russets, along with a bushel of seedlings, but not a single tantalizing lead. Then a handsome young couple walked up to us. They looked vaguely Amish, he in a vest and straw hat, she in homespun linens. “Is there one with ‘ghost’ in the name?” the man asked. “We recently bought a place in Gardiner that has some really old trees. The 95-year-old previous owner told us the names. One was something like ‘ghost.’”
Bunk couldn’t think of any heirloom apple with a name even close to “ghost,” but a month later he made the trip to check out the ghost apple. As soon as he saw the Gardiner house he grew hopeful. It was a classic old Cape and barn, and there was a row of some of the oldest pear trees he’d ever seen in the front yard. Fifty-foot crab apple trees shaded the house.
Skinny maples had colonized the land behind the house, but at regular intervals between them, in an orderly grid, he could make out the dark bulk of ancient revenants. It was an old orchard of about 30 trees. Most were dead. Some had gradually lain down on the ground and were now melting back into the earth.
The Ghost, it turned out, was a Snow, the name misremembered. A bright red Canadian apple cultivated by French settlers in the 1600s, the Snow is fairly common, though it’s best known as the mother of the McIntosh. It is named for its snow-white flesh. “Or ghost-white,” Bunk mused. He identified a brown, fuzzy Roxbury Russet, the oldest apple variety in America, also not an unusual find. He didn’t feel particularly disappointed; most leads go nowhere.
Then, along the back edge of the old orchard, he came upon a gnarled tree that was at least 150 years old. It held no fruit, but on the ground beneath it lay two dozen golden apples. Bunk picked up one and turned it over in his hand. It was round and firm, with prominent russet dots and a splash of russet around the stem. He knew instantly that he’d never before seen this apple, and, with a thrill, he also instantly wondered whether he had just found the Blake at last. Very few truly yellow apples were grown in Maine 150 years ago. But was the flesh “fine, firm, crisp, subacid”? He bit into the apple. Check, check, check, check. It would take a lot more detective work to prove this was a Blake, and he would have to return next fall to get some fruit in better condition, but he had a strong hunch that this ghost of the Great American Agricultural Revolution was a ghost no more.
Red Delicious Was Just Dethroned as America’s Favorite Apple. Here’s the New Favorite
The Red Delicious apple, an easy-to-transport variety that dominated grocery selection for decades, is no longer the most popular variety in the U.S. as the rise of the Gala apple and other fresh fruits signal changing consumer tastes and greater diversity in diets.
U.S. growers in 2018 will produce 52,432 boxes of Gala apples, up 5.8 percent from last year, and 51,689 of Red Delicious, down 11 percent, the U.S. Apple Association said Thursday in a statement. A box weighs 42 pounds (19 kilograms). Red Delicious has been the nation’s top apple for at least five decades, the group said.
Granny Smith will edge out Fuji for third place, with each having about half the production of Red Delicious. The Honeycrisp apple is expected to surpass the Golden Delicious variety to enter the top five for the first time this year. Apples are increasingly consumed fresh, and consumers are seeking out more and sweeter-tasting varieties, the association said.
“The rise in production of newer varieties of apples aimed at the fresh consumption domestic market has caused demand for Red Delicious to decline,” Mark Seetin, the association’s regulatory director, said in the statement.
It’s embarrassing that the world’s worst apple was the most popular apple for so long. https://t.co/fT6T6bMTFu
— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) August 24, 2018
Red Delicious will still account for about half of U.S. apple exports, Seetin said.
“Gala, which originated in New Zealand in the 1930s, has increased in popularity because consumers like its taste, texture and sweetness,” the association said.
In 2020, Honeycrisp may be in third place at current growth rates, according to the association.
China is the world’s biggest apple producer, followed by the U.S., Poland, Italy and France, according to the association.
The largest state growers in the U.S. are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California, the industry group says.
The nation has spoken: America’s favorite apple is officially the Gala apple. Until 2018, the Red Delicious apple has reigned as most popular of all the apple varieties.
Red Delicious Apples. Photo via istock.com_fuat oztas
Red Delicious Reigned for Decades
Red Delicious, a variety that originated in Iowa in the 1870s, has been the most popular U.S. apple for 50 years. Because of their tough skin, Red Delicious apples are easy to transport. There are far less bruises and dents in these apples when you pick them out at the grocery store. Though the toughness may not be as appetizing to our American palates as newer, sweeter varieties, Red Delicious remains the biggest variety exported to other countries, accounting for about half of U.S. apple exports.
SEE MORE: 10 Fun Facts About Apples
Gala Apples. Photo via pexels.com
Galas Galore: America’s New Favorite Apple
The Gala apple has taken the nation by storm with its vibrant color and great taste. This variety originally hails from New Zealand and was brought to the U.S. in the 1970s. Its thin skin takes your bite right into its juicy, semi-sweet center, making it the perfect snacking apple – and, as of 2018, America’s favorite apple variety.
SEE MORE: An Apple Recipe a Day: 30 Things to Make With Apples This Fall
Core Apple Varieties Include Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp
Fuji, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp round out the top five most popular apple varieties sold in the U.S. This marks the first year for Honeycrisp to crack the top five, as the sweet, crispy variety beat out Golden Delicious. Despite their waning popularity among U.S. apple buyers, Golden Delicious still ekes into the top five for apples produced in the U.S., a list still topped by Red Delicious. But with consumer demand for sweet varieties such as Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp, only time will tell how long that lasts.
Check out our infographics below on America’s favorite apple varieties.
Source: U.S. Apple Association
Your top 10 varieties
Top 10 by page hits
1. Apple – Pink Lady
One of the best-known modern apples, Pink Lady is actually a trademark and the variety is more correctly known as Cripps Pink.
2. Apple – Ambrosia
A sweet modern apple variety from western Canada, quite similar to Golden Delicious. Discovered as a chance seedling in an orchard in British Columbia.
3. Apple – Honeycrisp
Sometimes marketed as Honey Crisp or Honeycrunch, this is a crisp, and predominantly sweet, modern variety from the USA. It was developed by the University of Minnesota specifically for growers in cold climates, and is one of the most cold-hardy of apple varieties.
4. Apple – Gala
One of the most widely-grown apple varieties, with a sweet pleasant flavour, and good keeping qualities.
5. Apple – Fuji
Developed in Japan, but an all-American cross of Red Delicious and Ralls Janet. A very attractive modern apple, crisp, sweet-flavoured, and keeps well.
6. Apple – Cox’s Orange Pippin
This is the benchmark for flavor in apples – from a good tree in a good year it can achieve exceptional flavor.
7. Apple – Red Delicious
One of the most famous American apple varieties, a sport of Delicious, known for its bright red color.
8. Apple – Spartan
Attractive, crunchy, sweet, easy to grow, and with the characteristic delicate wine-like “vinous” flavor of the McIntosh family of apples.
9. Apple – Arkansas Black
A long-keeping tart apple from Arkansas, USA – which goes almost black in storage.
10. Apple – McIntosh
A crisp red apple with bright white flesh and refreshing sweet flavor.
There’s nothing quite like an apple that’s sweet, crisp, tart, and juicy. While apples are commonly eaten out of hand, many types of apples are great for cooking, too. Their culinary versatility shows in many ways: Apples work in all-American or French dishes, and in kid-friendly or sophisticated treats as well as drinks. One traditional pairing is apples with pork. The fruit’s sweetness complements the meat’s savoriness, resulting in classic dishes such as pork chops with apple sauce and sausage and apple stuffing.
While there are thousands of different types of apples in the world, we’ve rounded up 11 that represent the diversity found in today’s marketplace. Some, like the Red or the Golden Delicious, are tried-and-true favorites in the United States; others, such as Cameo and Fuji, are relative newcomers to the apple scene.
The fruit has been evolving for centuries: “Modern” apples have been cultivated for qualities such as shape, taste, and high production yield, but also for their resistance to pests and disease. In 1892, there were about 735 different varieties; now fewer than 50 are mass-grown. Because of renewed interest in older—and sometimes regional—varieties, “heirloom” apples such as Northern Spy, Gravenstein, Canadian Strawberry, and Newtown Pippin can be found at farmers’ markets or local orchards.
Read on to learn more about each of the most popular types of apples, followed by expert advice on how to buy and store apples for maximum freshness.
Types of Apples
1. Jonagold Apple
A lovely red hue with hints of yellow, this species is a hybrid of the Jonathan and the Golden Delicious and bears a faint physical resemblance to both. Like the Golden Delicious, Jonagold is sweet and thin-skinned, but it takes from the Jonathan a smooth skin and tart flavor. It is versatile and can be used in any recipe that calls for apples.
2. Cameo Apple
Although this apple was discovered in Washington State in 1987, it’s quickly grown in popularity. Juicy, crisp, and sweet with just a touch of tart, the Cameo is thought to come from both the Red and the Yellow Delicious. That explains its shape as well as the somewhat striated look of its red-and-yellow skin, which is thicker than the Golden Delicious but thinner than the Red. Try substituting Cameos for Goldens in baking and cooking recipes. This variety is especially delicious when eaten raw.
3. Empire Apple
A cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, the Empire was developed by researchers at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1966. It is generally quite round, with a skin that’s bright red with hints of green. The interior is crisp and creamy white. The Empire is firmer than the McIntosh, so it makes for a good cooking apple.
4. McIntosh Apple
This apple is the least firm of all the ones rounded up here. The soft flesh can be described as “creamy” or “mealy,” which makes this variety a good candidate for eating raw or for applesauce or apple butter, but not necessarily for baking. If you bake with McIntoshes, use a thickener to keep the apples from becoming too mushy.
5. Golden Delicious Apple
This all-purpose apple may share part of its name with the Red Delicious, but the two are not related. These yellow apples are a bright and cheery. They’re soft apples, as well, although not as soft to the touch as a McIntosh or a Cortland. Thin-skinned, the Golden Delicious doesn’t store well (it can bruise and shrivel), so try to use it as soon as possible. This apple is ideal for pies, salads, sauces, and freezing.
6. Fuji Apple
Created by Japanese growers in the 1930s, the Fuji apple’s popularity grew in the U.S. during the 1980s and it has quickly become one of the most popular in the country. It’s a large crisp apple—a relative of the Red Delicious—with an intense sweetness that makes this an ideal candidate for eating raw. Try adding Fujis to salads and slaws that require very little to no cooking to keep their consistency.
7. Cortland Apple
It’s an understandable mistake to confuse this apple with the McIntosh. Both are on the squat side, with creamy white interiors and sweet-and-tart flavors. The Cortland is a relatively soft apple, although not quite as soft as the McIntosh. And unlike the McIntosh, the Cortland functions as an all-purpose apple, which means you can bake it, cook it, or eat it raw.
8. Red Delicious Apple
This is the most popular apple variety in the U.S. It’s top heavy and has a creamy white interior. While juicy, the Red Delicious is a soft apple and won’t cook well. It’s best to eat them raw. They’re ideal snacks for the lunchbox.
9. Gala Apple
Taller than it is wide, the gala’s shape is similar to that of the Golden and Red Delicious apples. It has a pleasantly mild, sweet taste, and crisp texture, and it’s one of the lighter-hued red apples, boasting bright-yellow undertones. It’s also one of the relatively small apples in this roundup. Like Fujis, Galas are easy to eat uncooked thanks to their thin skin and overall sweetness, making them an ideal fruit for kids. They’re also good for cooking.
10. Granny Smith Apple
This is one of our favorite types of green apples. You can’t miss this apple, originally from Australia, with its bright skin, hard feel, crisp bite, and extremely tart taste. When it’s really ripe, the green skin usually has a touch of rosy red. While some savor the tartness, others prefer to cook it, which sweetens it up. It is an ideal complement to savory foods such as onions and cheese. On an aesthetic note: The green skin provides a great visual element to any dish.
11. Braeburn Apple
Originating from New Zealand, this apple has a skin that’s muted red with golden-yellow undertones and tinges of faint green. It has a firm, crisp bite and offers a pleasing balance between sweet and tart. Firm to the touch, Braeburns are good for baking as well as eating just as they are.
How to Buy and Store Apples
Now that you’re familiar with the different types of apples, here are a few tips on how to buy, store, and prevent them from browning—plus, a list of our favorite apple recipes!
Choose Firm and Shiny Apples When Shopping
When buying apples, choose those without any bruises or soft, mushy spots. They should be firm for their specific variety (a McIntosh will not be as firm as a Granny Smith). Look for fruit with shiny skin—dull skin hints at a lack of crispness and flavor.
Keep Them Cool
Apples quickly lose their crispness at room temperature. To keep apples in the fridge, place them in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper. Do not store bruised or cut apples since that will make the other stored apples spoil. To keep apples for an extended period of time, wrap each one in newspaper (don’t use paper with colored ink) and then store in a dark, cool place like the cellar or the garage.
Use Lemon Juice to Keep Your Sliced Apples Fresh
If you’re slicing apples and don’t want the exposed pieces to turn brown, dunk the slices in a bowl of three parts water to one part lemon juice.
Try Growing Your Own Apples at Home
To grow your own apples, visit the local garden nursery or purchase the trees from online purveyors such as Trees of Antiquity, Fedco Trees, and Century Farm Orchards.
15 Apple Recipes to Try Tonight
- Caramel-Dipped Apples
- Apple Galette
- Old-Fashioned All-American Apple Pie
- Three-Apple Applesauce
- Apple-Molasses Upside-Down Cake
- Apple and Parsnip Soup with Coriander
- Apple, Roquefort, and Red Leaf Lettuce with Pumpernickel Croutons
- New England Sausage, Apple and Dried Cranberry Stuffing
- Mashed Yams and Apples
- Pork Chops and Applesauce
- Apple Martini
- Apple Soju Cocktails
- Mulled Apple Cider with Orange and Ginger
- The Gold Rush
1 / 41Chevron Chevron Coconut-Apple-Ginger Dal This velvety lentil stew is the antidote to holiday excess; skip the yogurt to make it vegan. Get This Recipe
A Guide to the Most Popular Apple Varieties
Summer has given way to fall. But it’s not just the air that’s getting crisper. No, it’s apple season. While most varieties of apples are available year-round, we usually harvest apples in the fall. There are over 100 apple varieties grown commercially in the United States representing a whole host of shapes, color schemes, textures, and flavor profiles.
The average apple weighs in at just under 100 calories apiece. Apples are a valuable source of quercetin and chlorogenic acid. Apples may benefit your cardiovascular system and reported to help normalize blood sugar possibly.
They also contain pectin, a type of fiber that is believed to keep your GI tract moving (staying regular), and could possibly have a beneficial impact on your blood lipid profile.
Here are six of the most common single breed varieties, along with seven hybrids, so whether you’re picking them from the orchard or the produce aisle, you’ll know what to expect in terms of taste as well as how best to enjoy them.
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1. Red Delicious
Formerly known as the Hawkeye, Red Delicious apples are considered by some the most popular, most maligned, and most ironically named of all apple varieties in the U.S. Though it’s the most common type of red apple, it’s far from the best (in our opinion).
Flavor profile: After generations of breeding for longer shelf life and cosmetic stability—call it vanity ripeness—the flavor has mostly been cultivated out of the Red Delicious. It now has thick skin, a one-note sweet taste, and an often crumbly texture.
Where it’s grown: Just about everywhere.
Best enjoyed: Straight out of the silo. People do not regard Red Delicious apples well when baking.
McIntosh apples are storybook worthy. They are a gorgeous red color and have a yummy taste to back up how beautiful they are.
Flavor profile: With soft skin and softer flesh, the McIntosh strikes a balance between sweet and acidic.
Where it’s grown: McIntosh apples grow throughout the northeastern states, upper Great Lakes states, and in eastern Canada.
Best enjoyed: Raw, in fruit salad, or sauced. McIntosh apples typically collapse when baked.
3. Golden (or Yellow) Delicious
Considered an all-purpose apple, the Golden Delicious—along with Red Delicious—is the one most commonly found in 42-pound bags sold for five dollars at the grocery store.
Flavor profile: the meat of the apple is mild and sweet, the flesh is juicy, but taste-wise isn’t all that different from the taste of a Red Delicious.
Where it’s grown: Golden Delicious grow in most regions of the country.
Best enjoyed: Pick your poison. It works whole, chopped into a salad, or baked into desserts.
This New Zealand breed has gained popularity in the last 15 years. It’s a cross between a Kidd’s Orange Red and a Golden Delicious apple (assuming you’re up on apple husbandry).
Flavor profile: With pinkish-orange striping over a gold base, its skin is thin, concealing a crisp and juicy flesh that’s fragrant and relatively sweet.
Where it’s grown: Most states besides the southernmost points of the US.
Best enjoyed: Raw, juiced, or in salads.
5. Granny Smith
Neon green and stout, Granny Smith apples are probably the most readily-recognized of all apple varieties. It’s also the most common type of green apple.
Flavor profile: If you’re into tartness, this bitter old bird is your go-to. It’s crisp and has juicy flesh. These apples do sweeten with storage.
Where it’s grown: Originally cultivated in Australia, it’s harvested stateside below the Mason-Dixon Line, and is available year-round.
Best enjoyed: Raw, in pies, or in salads where you can offset the tartness. Granny Smith apples work exceptionally with nut butter.
Japan first harvested Fuji Apples, and they are still very popularly sold there. They are a cross between two American varieties (Red Delicious and Ralls Genet).
Flavor profile: These apples are dense, crisp, and has been regarded by some as the sweetest of all apple varieties.
Where it’s grown: Fuji apples were introduced to the United States in the 1980s, but there are now more Fuji apples produced in America than in Japan.
Best enjoyed: Raw, chopped into salads, or baked into a pie.
Braeburn apples were discovered—as opposed to bred—in New Zealand. Its probable parents are the Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith.
Flavor profile: Thin-skinned Braeburns boast textbook apple flavor and balance sweet and tart flavors. They have faint notes of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Where it’s grown: Many States grow Braeburn apples, except the northernmost parts of the Midwest and New England.
Best enjoyed: Raw, but it’s also known to juice very little during baking.
8. Pink Lady
The Pink Lady brand name is for the Cripps Pink variety apples that are grown under a specific license, dictating a rigid sugar-to-acid ratio, among other traits. Those that don’t qualify are sold as Cripps rather than Pink Lady apples.
Flavor profile: A cross between the Golden Delicious and Lady Williams, the Pink Lady is firm and crunchy with a tart flavor that finishes sweetly.
Where it’s grown: In America, they primarily grow in Washington and California.
Best enjoyed: Raw, in salads, baked in pies, and sliced onto cheeseboards.
Honeycrisp apples are the official state fruit of Minnesota. This variety of apple developed following efforts to create “cold-weather” apples.
Flavor profile: Keeps things simple with a light overall flavor profile that’s more sweet than tart. It’s also juicy and moderately crunchy.
Where it’s grown: The northern Great Lakes and New England.
Best enjoyed: Hardy and versatile. Honeycrisp’s are up to any baking task. They’d be an excellent choice for this gluten-free apple crisp. They’re actually better for baking a week or so after removal from cold storage.
Introduced in—where else—New York in the 1960s. It takes a lot to bruise this cross between a Red Delicious and a McIntosh apple, despite its thin skin.
Flavor profile: Retaining the sweetness of the Red Delicious and the tartness of the Mac, this is a crisp, juicy everyman’s apple.
Where it’s grown: Empire apples are grown in the Northeast and upper Midwestern states.
Best enjoyed: Raw, cooked, and added into salads.
Opal’s are bright yellow apples that are relatively new to the market and have quickly risen to fruit fame. Its color is reminiscent of Golden Delicious, which is one of its two parents. Opal apples marry the sweetness of Golden Delicious with the sharpness of Topaz.
Flavor profile: Opal apples are well-rounded with floral notes and have the right hit of tang.
Where it’s grown: Only in Washington (one grower controls the U.S. market), the Opal apple is popular and sold throughout the country.
Best enjoyed: You can eat Opal apples raw or cooked. But, perhaps, the most significant selling point of this apple is that it doesn’t brown quickly after slicing.
A youthful apple like the Opal, Jazz was cultivated 15 years ago in New Zealand by crossbreeding Royal Gala with Braeburn.
Flavor profile: Jazz apples are crisp with a taste more similar to pears than apples. Jazz apples have buttery, yellow flesh. They are super juicy.
Where it’s grown: In Washington state, Jazz apples have a long season from July to September.
Best enjoyed: Jazz hold their shape well when baked and are perfect for pies, muffins, and tarts.
More is merrier when it comes to the Pinata apple. Crossbreed not two but three varieties: Golden Delicious, Pippin, and Duchess of Oldenburg to create one Pinata apple.
Flavor profile: The pinata is unique for its tropical flavor, with notes of mango and pineapple. It has some tartness, but sweetness prevails. Its orange-hued skin is thin and light, a plus for those who shy away from tough peels.
Where it’s grown: Surprise, surprise: these apples grow in Washington State!
Best enjoyed: Given their sweetness, you won’t want to add any sugar. Enjoy these apples raw, such as on a cheese plate or in a savory salad.