Old Southern Apple Varieties

Tim Hensley runs a mail-order nursery specializing in antique apple trees and provides details of the best tasting old southern apple varieties available on the market.

| October/November 1996


Southern apple variety: Ben Davis.


A rundown of the best tasting old southern apple varieties available on the market. 

Old Southern Apple Varieties

Arkansas Black. Originated in Benton County, Arkansas, around 1870. Probably a seedling of Stayman Winesap. Arkansas Black is a medium to large apple. Waxy skin is dark red, nearly black. Flesh is yellow with distinctive flavor. Great keeping apple. "Hard enough to knock a dog down" when first picked, but mellows in storage. Noted for disease resistance. A superior, late, no-spray apple.

Ben Davis. Striped red apple, very hardy, vigorous, and productive. Ripens late. Exceptional keeper until June or July. Popular in the South after the Civil War. Often described as having only passable flavor, thus rendering it the butt of many an apple joke. (I would add only that any tree that can stand up to 125 years of ribbing has earned its place in the orchard.)

Benham. An old Kentucky apple, sometimes known as the Brown Apple. Bears August. A local favorite in southwest Virginia. Yellow-brown skin. Good early-autumn apple.

Black Ben Davis. Seedling of Ben Davis dating to 1880. Medium to large fruit, deep red all over. Said to make the best apple butter you ever tasted.

Black Limbertwig. A spicy and aromatic variety, excellent for fresh eating. Highly prized for cider and apple butter. Weeping type. Ripens October. Described at a 1914 Georgia Horticultural Society meeting as a very disease resistant apple. Highly recommended.

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