Southern Apples: Varieties, History and Planting Tips

Tim Hensley runs a mail-order nursery specializing in antique apple trees and shares his knowledge on southern apples, including the apple varieties available, the history of southern apples and planting tips.

| October/November 1996

Learn about southern apple varieties, history and helpful planting tips. 

Southern Apples: Varieties, History and Planting Tips

There's nothing like the beauty of a southern belle. I ought to know, I married one, a Florida blond.

And when it comes to apples, there's nothing like the taste of a Virginia Beauty. Again, I ought to know. My wife and I run a mail-order nursery specializing in antique apple trees—old southern apples in particular—and Virginia Beauty is one of the best.

Sink your teeth into this black-skinned pome and you'll never be the same. Firm, yellow flesh, juicy and sweet. And the flavor keeps you guessing: Last December it was hints of cherry and almond. The year before, cinnamon and vanilla. Unique is probably the best way to describe it. And it's hard to eat just one. Try an Oregon Delicious after sampling a Virginia Beauty and you'll think you're eating sawdust.

And that's not all. Virginia Beauty has some attractive cousins as well. In fact, there's a whole world of southern apples just waiting to be enjoyed. Little-known varieties with unusual names like Rambo, York, Albemarle Pippin, Spitzenburg, Yates, Mountain Boomer, Mammoth Black Twig, Hog Sweet, Ralls Janet, Horse Apple, and Buckingham.

And I'm not just talking up southern apples out of a misguided affection for the Confederate flag. Southern apples have been propagated for centuries because they are some of the best apples in the world. Sentiment for them runs high: "I grew up with that apple on my granddaddy's farm and there ain't nothing like it," folks will say. Or, "They've just about bred the taste out of these modern apples, all big and purty."

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