Contrary to popular opinion, the apple does fall far from the tree. Apples have a genome so mysteriously diverse that they are known as extreme heterozygotes, meaning that each seed will produce completely random results with only a distant genetic relationship to its parents. Think about the implications: Five seeds in one apple can produce five distinct fruits—or “pippins” as apples grown from seed are called—that have never existed before!
The only way to cultivate an apple with chosen traits is by grafting. That means cutting a shoot or twig from the tree you want (called a “scion”) and attaching it to the rootstock of another living tree until they merge to eventually produce the desired fruit. That means every Golden Delicious apple is a clone of the original seedling found growing in 1891 on a farm in West Virginia.
Although many top-notch ciders are made by blending inedible bittersharp and bittersweet apple varieties (known as “spitters” for their mouth-puckering acids and tannins), native-New York crossover apples like the prized workhorses featured here are great for eating, baking and fermenting!
Golden Russet is an aromatic gem discovered in upstate New York in 1840. It’s known as “the Champagne of cider apples” for its balance of acidity, tannin and sugar, which New Hampshire cider maker Farnum Hill Ciders says, “quietly ensures that many of our cider blends will outclass the sum of their parts.” It’s also one of the few apples that can be made into a single-varietal cider. According to author Rowan Jacobsen, “This apple does everything better than most apples do anything.”
This apple is an old-fashioned keeper with great acid and dense flesh. Originally found growing in the orchards of Dutch settlers around Esopus, New York, in the 1700s, it’s reputed to be a favorite of both Thomas Jefferson and President Obama. “Spitz,” as it’s also called, is versatile and great for both eating
This apple is one of the few widely grafted varieties to have originated within New York City. It was found growing in 1720 in an orchard around present-day Broadway and 45th Street in Elmhurst, Queens. It’s a medium to large green-yellow fruit so exceptionally delicious and crisp that it was a favorite of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Good for eating, baking and cider, it eventually became America’s first commercially important apple.
Illustrations by Adriana Gallo.