The Best Summer Apples

Axel(12b/Sunset H2)August 8, 2012

I spent some time and wrote up some evaluation notes on all the apples that are ripening for me during the Summer. Since I am growing 800 different varieties, I thought I would try to pass on valuable information as to what works and what doesn't work in our climate here in Santa Cruz County, California.

Anyone who tells you Summer apples aren't worth growing because you can't beat a good peach has NOT eaten a good Summer apple, so don't believe them.

The apples I am eating this Summer I would pick hands down over even the best peach I have.

Three wonderful new discoveries this Summer are:

State Fair: divine, aromatic, complex and simply delicious

Summer Treat: an explosion of aromatics, firm and juicy

Mollie's delicious (Gravenstein X Golden Delicious): this one lives up to its name, it's delicious

And the following are repeat deliciousness from previous years:

Alkmene: Superb, like the yumminess of cox orange pippin fused with Gravenstein deliciousness

William's pride: mouth watering good, and beautiful

Beverly Hills: Sweet, tart, complex and aromatic, UCLA really did good on this one. Eat one and you want to have another.

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I get a few State Fair every year and have to agree with youu. They're a very fine apple and a reasonable keeper for a summer apple.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 5:14PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


I'm sure summer apples are very good in your climate. All summer with average highs in the 70s and lows in low 50s, see below. That's fall weather here. And most of the people reading this have much hotter summer weather. Just last week you were saying your nectarine are basically unedible.

Now if you'd put up that high tunnel and get your daytime temperatures up to 90F then you'd have the best of both world's. You could also likely make a much fairer comparison between really good summer apples and really good stone fruit.

I love your climate and what you are doing. But a high tunnel is the first thing I'd do if living there. Then you could rightfully brag about the best fruit growing setup anywhere.

Here is a link that might be useful: Santa Cruz CA climate

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 6:00PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Axel do you have Laxton's Fortune or Cherryville Black? They are my earliest apples, coming in now, and both are very good. Cherryville Black has a sweet/nutty savory taste. Laxton's is a rose-perfumed apple.

I have several of the ones you mention above but they didn't fruit yet.

The main problem I have found with early apples is heavy watercore. They also go mealy fast. Maybe my heat makes these things worse.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:50PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Fruitnut, wrong climate, I don't live in the beach zone which is what the Santa Cruz readings you posted are for. For example today we had 90F, and it was 76 at the beach. We have the Santa Cruz mountain climate, which is much warmer than the beach.

We get really good peaches, I just grow two nectarine varieties, and they are not really that great. It has nothing to do with lack of heat, I don't like super sweet fruit anyway. I can eat apples all day because they don't spike my blood sugar levels, and they are not fattning, but peaches are more like bananas, I eat them in moderation.

It's true that our climate is ideal for Summer apples, but it's also erroneous to think that Summer apples don't do well in hot Summer climates. There is a large number of Summer apples that come out of the South, a few on my list are actually from there. The only three that I would not grow in a hot climate are yellow transparent, beverly hills and red astrachan. They'll turn to mush in the heat.

I can't predict what sort of flavors will develop in what climates. It's true that in general, apples that get exposed to a solid diurnal temperature change will flavor up better. So 90F during the day followed by 50's at night is a better recipe for complex aromatic flavors. But Summer apples are just that "Summer" apples, which means they will be good anywhere there is Summer weather. William's pride is a perfect example of an apple that will do well in a number of different locales.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 11:16PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

scott, I have Laxton's Fortune but it hasn't fruited yet. Looks like we'll have to exchange scions once again this Winter as I don't have Cherryville Black.

I have my share of Summer apple varieties that go mealy - lodi, summer rambo, yellow transparent, red astrachan are just a few. I get some water core on specific varieties, especially after some heat spells in the 90's. I have two varieties that look identical, grow right next to each other and ripen at the same time: alkmene and Bella de Jardin. Alkmene doesn't get water core, Bella de jardin gets it really bad. Of course the BRIX goes through the roof on the water core.

Fruitnut, I think I'll take you up on the tunnel idea, but not for the stone fruit. My figs really could use more heat.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 11:24PM
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Mollie's Delicious does well for us here too, crisp and tangy despite the heat, which at 108 and humid we have plenty of it here right now.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 11:43PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Applenut, I saw the forecast for your neck of the woods, sounds like brutal weather. And you still get good apples, which is proof that there are plenty of apples that do well with heat.

Mollie's delicious is pretty prolific. You should also try San Jacinto (spicy and tart) and summer treat. Both are firm fleshed apples that should be able to take the inland empire heat without blinking.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 1:18AM
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alan haigh

Strange what you say about nectarines being overly sweet. The reason I prefer them to peaches here is because of the much higher acid content along with high sugar. Even on sites that produce bland peaches they are intense.

Have to admit I've been getting some really flat low acid nectarines from CA this year (crop failure in my orchard). Figured that was due to the genius of DW.

I am not a fan of summer apples- somehow my palate doesn't really savor apples until first cool weather. I am very impressed with Zestar, however. It has a lot of the virtues of Honeycrisp, texture-wise, but is not nearly as fussy an apple. It gets good quality under hot conditions here. They are ripe now in mid W. Pride season.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 5:33AM
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I'm glad to hear the good review of Zestar! since that is the summer apple I planted in my backyard. I don't know if it would produce well in CA since the variety was developed in MN, but I really don't know the chilling hours it requires. Though, I guess State Fair was developed in MN and works well for you. I'll have to try Zestar! and State Fair side-by-side this summer.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 8:35AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I've had about four bites of nectarine all summer, they all rotted. This may be the last year for nectarines for me, I have better things to put in that space. Mericrest is the only one which seems to be able to avoid the rot.

Re: summer apples, I started off with no summer apples thinking I would not be interested in apples that early, but have since come around. I didn't mention above my favorite early guy, Golden Nugget. I didn't mention it because the squirrels got them all this year. It watercores heavily but is an excellent-tasting early russet. I didn't know it was so early when I planted it, and it got me interested in growing more early ones.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:51AM
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I eat about 1000 apples a year, but I would not touch them if enough figs, Comice pears, Concord grapes, mulberries, melons or peaches were available. So I am afraid I will never get much into summer apples. I planted a Sansa tree however.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:16AM
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I have tried a lot over the years. Hard to beat a nice
Yellow Transparent when conditions are right. Eat them fast as they only keep for a few days.

Melba, Milton, Dutchess ect ok for a summer apple pie but
they are soft. The pie will have the consistency of apple
jelly when the fruit is cooked. Still a treat for me since
this is what old time summer apples were like.

Stark Earliblaze is early but very tart for me. Viking is
an old timer that some years is good (late July) and other
years is mush on the tree. I enjoyed Viking in the years the fruit is good.

I am thrilled with Ginger Gold and Zestar as early apples.
Not quite summer apples as they are ripe late August-early
september most years but the quality on both is fantastic.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:35AM
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My top early/summer apple - MonArk; big red-over-green fruit, with crisp white flesh, not overly tart, ripe here most years in mid-July. Good for fresh eating, cooking, drying. Keeps well for 6 weeks or more, under refrigeration, without going mealy. Extended harvest season, requiring multiple pickings - think I was getting fruit for a month, including the early drops that hadn't colored fully, but were still quite edible.

Centennial and Kerr crabs also make my list - everything was early this year - Centennial was pretty well finished by July 10, Kerr a couple weeks later. Really like 'em both.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:55AM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Glib, a thousand apples a year? If you exclude Summer, that's 3 apples a day. I eat about that much, except during late Winter when I run out of edible storage apples. That would usually be March through June. So I guess I eat as many as you. But I'd be missing out on all the yummy Summer apples if I didn't eat any then. Apples in the middle of Winter out of storage are no match for a delicious, freshly picked Summer apple.

Scott, what is Golden nugget? I've never heard of it.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 5:06PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Axel here is the Golden Nugget description from Southmeadow:

GOLDEN NUGGET - This is one of the choicest dessert apples in the Southmeadow collection and is being here propagated commercially for the first time. A 1932 cross of Golden Russet and Cox's Orange Pippin made not for breeding purposes but for a pollination investigation. Luckily some were used in a subsequent breeding program, and in 1949 Dr. C selected this seedling. J. Bishop, of the Kentville, Nova Scotia Station of the Canadian Department of Agriculture. Small, broadly conical long-stemmed apple, predominantly yellow, streaked and splashed with bright orange; sometimes netted and spotted with russet. Sugary sweet, rich, luscious, of a most delicious mellow flavor. Short keeping life. Ripens just before Cox's Orange.

I got my scion from Botner and it is completely russeted and I never figured out if I had a sport or if my climate made it that way or Botner had the wrong name on what he had.

Lucky, I grafted MonArk twice and both times the deer munched it. Ah well. Centennial also got munched to death. I am getting Transcendant crabs now, they are very flavored but too astringent for regular eating. Probably great for jelly or cider.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 5:27PM
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austransplant(MD 7)

Thanks to preemptive netting of the tree to prevent squirrel marauders, I had a pretty good crop of Williams Pride this year, which I harvested about one and a half weeks ago. They are still good in the fridge. I think they are a very good apple, and others who have tasted them also really liked them. Although they are not long term keepers, they seem to hold up well in the fridge for about a month.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 5:48PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Scott, how do we know Botner's stuff is really correct? I must have at least 20-30 varieties so far that I'd label as "unidentified", in other words, didn't turn out as advertised. It's not just Botner, it's pretty much all sources that are unreliable.

For example, I grafted melrose, expecting a nice average sized October eater. Instead, I got these delicious little June ripening crab apples. They're good, but I have no idea what they are. I also got anisim from Botner, expecting an early September ripening red apple. Instead, I have an October ripening green with slight red blush apple that is most definitely not anisim.

I grafted missouri pippin, and instead I got chestnut. At least that one was easy to identify. I grafted alkmene and bella de jardin from GRIN, guess what, they're both identical - ripening at the same time, look and taste 100% identical.

I purchased a white winter pearmain from Dave Wilson, instead I got a Winter banana. After complaining about it, they provided me with another "White Winter pearmain" that once again was a Winter banana. At that point, I concluded that Dave Wilson's "White Winter Pearmain" isn't a pearmain, but it's actually Winter banana, and they don't have a clue.

I remember ordering a St Edmunds pippin from Trees of Antiquity. To my surprise, I got large red fruit. Turns out to be splendour, and it bit the dust two years later for no apparent reason.

I grow two De L'estre apples, one from a local source, one you sent me. The one you sent me is smaller with a beautiful red blush. The one I got locally is like a stripeless green gravenstein, but flavored differently.

Go figure. i can't make heads or tails out of a chunk of my apple collection.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 6:25PM
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Yes, I eat five or six apples a day for half the year. Somehow apples agree with my metabolism, far more than virtually any grain, and I would rather eat local, which means for six months a year it is the only fruit. You have to get your carbs from somewhere, and root vegetables or squash are very nice and healthy but difficult to take to work or snack on. If I can plant 2000 sqft with squash, parsnip and turnips next year I may eat less apples.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:19AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Axel, I know from the number of mistakes I have made myself that its just too easy to screw up when you are doing hundreds of grafts .. Winter Banana vs Winter Pearmain is probably just someone grabbing the wrong "Winter" from the scion pile. My peaches of last springs grafting fruited this year and two I somehow messed up on. Usually I double-record, both on the tree and in a log (a file on my smartphone) as I do it, but I got lazy last spring and only tagged the trees, and then logged them later. For one of them I forgot to log it and the tag faded, and for the other I think I just forgot what scion I had just grafted and put on the wrong tag.

I have had very good luck with Botner overall, probably a majority of my varieties are from him and maybe only a couple were wrong. My least reliable nursery has been Cummins, their mainstream and cider apples were all correct but some of the obscure dessert apples turned out wrong.

Some people have a rule for trading that the variety should be confirmed correct before you trade it to others. That sounds like a good idea, but I expect there is more chance the error came from a mixup at the two ends of the last trade and not on the tree being wrong to begin with, or its wrong but the owner doesn't realize it.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:23AM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Scott, I think Botner's scion wood he sends out is reliable, what is questionable is if the varieties he thinks he has are actually what they claim to be. Anisim is a very old variety, and it was probably "re-discovered" by someone who improperly identified it as anisim. I think a lot of the so-called "re-discoveries" are dubious at best. So it's not Nick's fault.

I am sure I've made my share of errors. But you are right, best to verify a particular variety first before passing it along.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 12:08PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Is anyone growing Sweet Bough? I haven't heard any mention of it here (or in the other apple threads), but it seems to get some good reviews elsewhere.

The NY agricultural experiment station bulletin from March, 1913 calls it "A universal favorite for the home orchard and local market" and describes it as immune to apple blight in 1906, a year when it was very common. Other sources describe it "highly resistant to scab" ( site) and "Juicy, tender, crisp, white flesh with honey sweet flavor. Disease hardy tree" (Maple Valley).

I'm especially interested if anyone is growing it near me, as I'm considering it for the short list of additions next spring.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 1:16AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Santa Cruz county has been apple country for over a hundred years. Martinelli established the best cider works there in the 19th century to take advantage of the great apples available. Today the apple acreage has been reduced in the county and Martinelli's has to truck a lot of apples in, still the best cider. Al

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 9:21AM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Bob, I have sweet bough, so far, it seems to lack vigor for me, and hasn't produced any apples yet. I m also very curious about this one. I can't wait to taste some fruit.

Calistoga, yes, Santa Cruz county is apple country, and it's a shame that the acreage of apples is going down. We have one of the best apple climates in the world, apples do well here with little help, our soils seem to be quite suitable, and the pest pressure is low.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 4:22PM
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