French Apples - Hidden Gems @ Geneva?

megamav(5a - NY)July 2, 2013

I know there are more than a few of you here that have a thing for heirlooms or rare varieties.

I combed thru some French varieties on the USDA site.
These were offered in their 2012 catalog and could be ordered.

I found a bunch of them interesting from the descriptions.
Might be worth considering if you are thinking about throwing a mystery variety out there.

Court Pendu Gris - Very sweet, aromatic, russet.
Double Bon Pommier - Late, sweet, sub-acid.
Fenouillet Gris - Sweet & Anised
Fenouillet de Ribours - Russet & Anised
Muscadet de Dieppe - Ringing endorsement for cider
Pigeonnet Blanc - Midseason Green/Red
Rambour Franc - Eary Vinous
Reinette Jamin - Giant Green Apple

Anyone heard of, or tried any of these?

This post was edited by megamav on Tue, Jul 2, 13 at 17:48

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What a great list. I have created a monster with my orchard and no help. The names of these apples are enticing on their own. I've ordered two Caville Blanc d'Hiver arriving next spring.
Thanks megamav, I will look them up! Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 6:34PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I grew out about 50 French heirloom apples, including most of the ones you list above. I agree they are definitely mystery apples as far as US growers are concerned. There is a fair amount of knowledge about the English apples here, but relatively little about the French. In France they are more well-known and I used information from there to learn more about them. Of the ones I grew out there were quite a few good ones and a few really great ones that I have kept. If you want to know my opinions on any ones you are considering feel free to ask.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 6:41PM
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Scott, do tell! Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 7:04PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

Mrs. G,

I think its time to graft!
I'd be surprised if you could find whole trees pre-grafted with any of above those varieties.

I've seen really really exotic varieties only from Cornell/Geneva. Even Cummins' Nursery has a few exotics, but nothing like those. If im trying an apple I've never heard of, I'd rather graft a branch for free than buy a whole tree.

I'd add Champagne Reinette to the list, but I think thats reasonably common. Im all ears with Scott's experiences with the above, hes about the only reference we've got on the rares.

No fear with grafting, its reasonably simple, and I could point you to a few resources to teach you how in a few hours.

I've got 4 different varieties growing on 1 tree!

Google stephenhayesuk cleft graft and rind graft, those are just about the only 2 you would need to know to be successful grafting.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 8:34PM
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Mega I think you're right. I guess I'm just anxious about doing it improperly. I like someone standing next to me to teach me how to graft, but the creation of youtube should be my guide. I will google that name. I also ordered a 'Reine des Reinettes' due to Scotts recommendation. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 8:42PM
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What kind of wax is Stephen using and where do I buy it? This looks too simple to be true. Guess I need a really sharp knife. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 8:50PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Here some descriptions from my log. I left out the cider apples, these are all eaters or cookers. The list is very roughly in ripening order.


Transparent Croncels - They have a rich taste to them something like banana/pineapple. But they are hard to ripen properly and go mealy too fast. Its mainly a cooking apple. Too many problems ripening so removed.

Pigeonnet Blanc - Big and white and sour, and goes bad fast. A cooker I expect. Removed.

Belle Pontoise - A very nice large savory apple.

Pigeonnet Rouge - A nice tasting apple with a savory taste. Needs heavy thinning. Unusual shape and striping.

Rambour d'automne - very good tasting tangy apple; something like McIntosh school but more creamy/slimy and quite different aromatics. Bad watercore many years; removed.

Bonne Hotture - russeted and very good flavor; one of my favorite russets.

Belle Fleur Rouge - A larger sour version of McIntosh. Seems like a good drying apple, it does not brown and stays fresh looking long after cutting open. Leaves have red tint. Extreme tip-bearer and not productive; removed.

Franc Roseau - Classic super sweet/tart acidic crunchy type apple.

Fennoulet Gris - No good but I think I had the wrong variety. I re-sourced it but deer munched graft to death.

Canada Reinette - Great cooker but far too prone to fireblight; removed.

Reine des Reinettes - A classic French cooker which is also a great eater. One of my favorites.

Court Pendu Plat - Similar to Roxbury but not as flavorful.

Rambour Franc - Lots of watercore. Decent savory taste but nothing particularly outstanding. Removed.

Orleans Reinette - Similar to Roxbury Russet. Removed due to late blooms getting fire-blighted.

Reinette Clochard - Similar to but sweeter than Roxbury Russet. Prone to bug and skin damage.

Reinette Gris Santoinge - Russet shaped like Ashmead's Kernel with dry flesh, too dry (mealy). Skin has unusual bumps on it. Removed.

Reinette Cloche - Yet another Roxbury type; like Clochard it also gets too many bugs.

Reinette de Cuzy - Very tasty with a savory flavor, very large.

Rambour d'Hiver - A very late crunchy large apple with a mild but tasty flavor. Very hard flesh and more resistant to bugs, the apples always come out attractively. Fruits reliably every year. One of my favorites.

Pigeonnet - A very late apple, seems to be of the Sundowner order of lateness. I didn't get many of these but it showed some potential (before it died).

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 8:54PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I grafted for the first time this spring.
This is what I used:

Opinel #6 and #10, I use the #6 for small cuts like pruning off stock wood, and #10 for splitting large branches. Get em cheap on amazon.

I shape scions with a razor blade.

Trowbridge Grafting Wax, you can find it at Agways or Main ingredient is bees wax. Cheap at Agway.

Parafilm, you can also get this on Amazon for reasonably cheap.

Green vinyl nursery tape, you can also get 1" poly tape with no adhesive as well, its stretchy and comes in different colors.

You can either use grafting wax and wrap with the vinyl or poly tape, or you can use the parafilm only on small branches for a moisture tight seal.

I also have a long taper flathead screwdriver to keep open large clefts.

Its easy, key is crossing cambium layers and wrapping up with a moisture tight seal.

You can get The Grafters Handbook on amazon, but Stephen Hayes' videos will safe you a lot of time.

If you have questions you can email me anytime, im limited on experience, but I think I've figured out what works and what doesnt.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 9:03PM
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Thanks! I'll look up the technical terms. Can't wait till spring! Thanks so much. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 9:16PM
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megamav(5a - NY)


Its just another one of those things, its either subjective or the documentation you're reading infers certain things about the variety that different people, climates, rootstocks, soil doesnt bring out.

I hate to disagree with you, but I've had both Orleans Reinette and Roxbury russet, and I dont think they're that similar other than sweet tart. There is definitely a citrus acid tartness quality to the Orleans Reinette, and a strong flavor compared to the Ashemeads Kernel-like Roxbury.

I gotta talk to Samascott Orchards around here this year about their Calville Blanc d'Hiver and its growing challenges like fireblight. In reading your anecdotes, I watch my Orleans Reinette like a hawk for shoot and blossom fireblight. Im wondering if your more humid, warm climate makes your already susceptible varieties a glowing target for it. I see fireblight around here only on a few varieties, 2 that come to mind are Golden Russet and Greenings, both are bug magnets.

Court Pendu Plat = Court Pendu Gris?
Fennoulet Gris and Fenouillet de Ribours has me interested in the anise class. I know you and Axel were are on that anise boat for a while there, I figured if someone would have tried it, it would have been one of you two.

Muscadet de Dieppe, which sounds like a Golden Russet type of apple. Golden Russet, IMO is one of the few apples you could not blend and fool people into thinking its a blended cider. Rich. This one sounds just like it. I gotta research it if I were to request it.

Reine des Reinettes, I had about 6 of them last season. Money. Cant say much more.

I may get bored this fall and put in a "shot in the dark" request with Geneva to "graft and observe" one of these. They seem receptive to observational requests.

Any of the ones I've linked piqued your interest Scott?


    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Scott, your reviews are always amazing and thorough. Thank you so much for taking the time to put it up! Mrs. G (I always learn something!)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 8:57AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Mrs. G,
Grafting is so simple and rewarding you'll love it. Try it. C'mon, everyone's doing it. You'll be alright. It won't change you. You'll even be able to quit when you want.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 9:06AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Eric, of the ones you list I am most interested in Court Pendu Gris. I have it but it has yet to fruit - it was in a too shaded spot. I had Double Bon Pommier for a long time but it never fruited and I recently got rid of it; its a juicing or pastry variety. Fenouillet Gris was fruited by Axel, he described it but I don't remember the details. Reinette Jamin I know nothing about, same with Fenouillet de Ribours. If you want a wild card that last one fits, I never found it in any French apple lists so I don't know what it is.

I agree Roxbury and Orleans are different, those descriptions I pulled together pretty fast. If you want more details just ask. They are all in what I call the "yellow school", apples with yellowish flesh, high sours and sugars, and low aromatics. That is the sense they are all similar. Within those bounds there is a fair amount of difference. Looking through my logs it is Cloche that I felt Orleans was the most similar to of that school. The best tasting "yellow school" apple to me is Pitmaston Pineapple, then Cloche, Orleans, and Clochard (all more or less equally good but still different-tasting), and then Roxbury, and finally Court Pendu Plat.

I am regretting chopping down my Orleans, I finally got rid of all my Euro cider apples last winter and I have no fireblight this year at all. So maybe it would be OK now. Blenheim Orange was also supposed to go as it also had late bloom issues like Orleans, but I kept it and its doing fantastic this year. Fireblight is a complex disease; highly prone trees seed it and if you get rid of that source you can stem the subsequent waves.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 9:46AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)


Also remember you can bud apples very easily..i. did a few in the past and most of them took. I'm no pro and i've had a very good rate of "takes" can start budding at any time through early Sept.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 10:25AM
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megamav(5a - NY)


Contact me in the winter if you want Orleans Reinette bud wood. I'd be more than happy to send you some. Tree source is Cummins Nursery.

I am considering Fenouillet de Ribours or Muscadet de Dieppe or both. Not sure if it would be this next year or the year after. Im going to continue to comb the list, I'll probably look at Dutches next.

I did some reading online last night and apparently Muscadet de Dieppe is pretty well known for FINE QUALITY bittersweet sparkling and hard ciders in Europe. Not the sweet cider we have here in the states.

Looks like on your GardenWeb profile page, you have it listed. Any luck with it?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 10:39AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Eric, thanks for the offer. I have too many apple varieties at this point so its probably just going on my "eventually" queue.

I never got any fruit off MdD for various reasons, mainly because it started in too shady a spot. This spring I topworked nearly all my Euro cider apples including MdD, too much fireblight etc problems on them. Thats why FB has been OK this year, I removed the main source of infection.

I have tasted a pure MdD cider, I forget the label but it was a French cider that used to be imported into the US. The cider tasted similar to other French ciders, in other words very good. There is nothing particularly special about that cider apple other than it doesn't need to be blended with other kinds to get the right sugar/acid balance.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Scott, if you don't mind, where do you buy imported French cider? Thanks, Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 9:24AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Mrs G, if you have a good liquor store they will have a few. Dupont is probably the most common imported French cider; it is excellent. It used to be $6 a bottle but its gotten more high-end, now its more like $15. I know of a store in NYC that has many ciders, I grabbed some Basque ciders when I was there last time (the name escapes me now, it was not far north of Huston). These are all (mildly) alcoholic by the way, the term cider meant alcoholic cider until prohibition.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 9:49PM
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thanks Scott!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 8:33AM
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