Here in the U.S., we take our apples pretty seriously. We eat them for snacks, pack them in lunches, cook them in dozens of different ways and bake them into everyone’s favorite dessert; the apple pie. Growing up, we were always hearing things described as being “as American as apple pie”. This is an interesting analogy considering the fact that of the world’s 7,500 varieties of apples, only one is native to this country, and it is definitely not one that immediately springs to mind when baking a pie. Of the 2,500 currently grown in the U.S., do you know which apple variety is the only one that has an American origin? Keep reading and we will let you know if your guess is correct.
Even though the apples that we know and love were actually brought here by the Pilgrims as seed, we have had a love affair with them ever since. Thanks to frontiersman John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, apple trees sprung up all over the country. Nowhere, however, have they flourished in more variety and abundance than the apples of New York State.
The Empire State may come in second to Washington as the top apple-producing state, but New York’s 10 million apple trees produce more varieties than any other state. Apple trees will grow in all temperate climate zones, but they do the best in regions where there is a cold winter and moderate summer. This is one of the reasons that New York apples are not only popular locally but are widely exported.
10 Most Popular New York State Apple Varieties
- McIntosh – the Mac, considered an eating and cooking apple, has tender pinkish-white flesh and is sweet and tarty
- Empire – known for their crispness and combination of sweet and tart taste
- Red Delicious – long a favorite, its distinctive yellow flesh is crisp, sweet and juicy
- Cortland – a somewhat larger relative of the McIntosh, the Cortland is good for eating and very popular in salads and for turning into applesauce
- Golden Delicious – crisp, with white flesh and said to have a honey-like taste, the Golden Delicious is not related to the Red Delicious but was used in the development of other well-known varieties, such as the Gala, Crispin, Ambrosia, Pink Lady, and Jonagold
- Rome – bright red and crunchy, a go-to choice for cooking due to it not becoming mushy
- Idared – sweet, tart and juicy, this cross between the Jonathan and Wagener varieties is good to eat but best for cooking and baking
- Crispin – developed in Japan and originally named Mutsu, the Crispin is an all-around favorite for eating and cooking
- Paula Red – the apple of choice for many due to its signature tartness
- Gala – recognizable by its pinkish-orange stripes, this mildly-sweet cross of Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Golden Delicious is a top pick for eating
This list represents the top sellers but there are many other popular types. With so many varieties available, grocery stores can only stock those most in demand, so many favorites are available only from farmers’ markets, road side stands and growers.
Back to our question about the one variety of apple native to America. If you said “crab apple”, you are correct. Although some people do like to eat them, and they are used in jellies, preserves and cider, this small apple with the unfortunate name is not likely to ever show up on a list of favorites.