Here at Turkey Knob, we’re growing some special apples that have a story to tell. Our heritage apples are varieties that have a history; heirloom apples that have been grown, picked and eaten here in the valley for centuries. A few of these varieties were cultivated and enjoyed by some of the most monumental figures in U.S. history right here in Virginia.
These heritage apples are often not as “pretty” as the common varieties that you see in the grocery store, but they have unique characteristics and uses that make them preferable to those in many cases. If you are out to cook or bake your favorite desserts, store, or make fantastic cider, these apples will really make a difference.
Without further ado, here’s a little information about some of these heritage apples that we have available here at Turkey Knob. While you’ll notice most of these apples ripen later in the season, you can preorder your apples today. Some of these apples are harder to come by, so make sure you get yours while you can!
Stayman apples were cultivated by Dr. J. Stayman of Leavenworth, Kansas in the 1860’s, and from there they were made commercially available by the Stark Bros nursery in 1895. Historically this apple was very popular here in the valley. It was used for commercial dessert production and is fantastic for pies, cider, drying, and eating fresh.
This medium to large apple takes on a greenish-yellow skin flushed with dark red stripes giving it a reddish-brown appearance. The flesh of the apple has a tinge of yellow, is firm, fine textured, and tender. The Stayman apple has a robust, sweet, and tart flavor profile.
It blooms later than many other apples and is suitable for cooler, frost-prone climates. Here in Virginia, these apples ripen around the first week of October. Though the skin may scald over time, the flesh maintains quality for long periods of time.
It’s been said that the Rome apple was grown by accident. The tree was planted on the Gillet family property in Rome Township, Ohio, 1817. They noticed one of the apple trees they received was different from the others, and when it produced fruit, it was clear that this apple was special.
This medium to large apple has a smooth, glossy, and thick skin. It’s yellow with red striping that gives it a deep red blush color, and it has white lenticels (or pores) covering the surface. Contrary to what was stated above in regards to heritage apples not always being aesthetically pleasing, this apple does take on a charming, red appearance. Its flesh is pale, firm, crisp, and dense. The Rome apple is mildly tart, sweet, and tangy.
The Rome is excellent for creating sauces, baking pies, frying, and roasting. Its firmness makes it great for baking because it holds its shape through the process. Rome apples were known as the “Queen of baking apples” in the 20th century.
It ripens in late October and will store for a couple of months when stored in a cool, dry location.
In the 1820’s, Quaker nurseryman, Jonathan Jessop, developed the York Imperial apple on his farm near York, Pennsylvania. The apple took some odd shapes, but it was a good all-purpose apple that kept exceptionally well, which was very important in that time period.
This medium to large apple exhibits a very firm, coarse, and crisp yellow flesh. It has a greenish-yellow skin with light red stripes and appears with occasional russet at either end. It’s very juicy, slightly aromatic, and has a semi-sweet flavor.
The York apple has a distinctive crisp texture, and it’s great for cooking, baking your favorite desserts, drying, applesauce, and cider. It’s harvested in late October and great for storing in a cool, dry place.
The Albemarle Pippin is probably the most famous of Virginia apples. It originated in the 1700’s near the village of Newton on Long Island, New York. Col. Thomas Walker of Castle Hill brought this variety back to Albemarle County when he returned from service under General Washington at the battle of Brandywine in 1777. By the end of the 18th century, this apple was grown widely in Virginia.
The Albemarle Pippen was even grown and enjoyed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Its crisp, juicy, firm flesh exhibits a very rich, complex flavor that’s wonderful in desserts. In the 1800’s, it was a prized dessert apple. It grows extremely well in Virginia soils but is increasingly difficult to find today. This apple has few peers.
If you’re looking for local apples grown here in the valley, it doesn’t get much better than these heritage varieties. While tasting great, these apples have a story to tell and embody the history of the land around us.