Our apples

apple Elstar

We have this game we play with the kids to keep them occupied when we have to wait somewhere. It goes like this: someone asks a question like “If you only could read one book (watch one movie/ eat one dessert…) till the end of your life, what would it be?” and then we all have to come up with an answer. Besides helping Sebastiaan to survive the excruciatingly long period of time between ordering in a restaurant and getting your food (like many boys he has trouble sitting still), it gives us an insight into their current favorites. Likely the only book they want to read till the end of time will be something different now than it was last year.

edible forest garden
Our answers do not change so much from year to year and to the question “If you only could eat one kind of fruit what would it be?” I always, always answer: “Apple”.
In a way, it’s cheating. Because there is not just ONE apple, there are thousands of varieties of apples, the fruits differing in shape, color, and most importantly: flavor. You can eat apples for a long time without getting bored.

In honor of the Apple Day this week, I would like to tell you about the 4 varieties of apples we grow in our garden(s).

apple Elstar

use: eating apple (also good for apple butter and juicing)
year: 1955
picking: from the 3rd week of September
storage: till December
pollination: self-fertile
This variety is the most popular apple in the Netherlands, with more than half of the commercial orchards growing it. It stood in the middle of the garden of our house when we moved in 13 years ago and it’s about the only plant we did not take out. It is an eating apple and even though I do like the well-balanced sweet-sour taste all right, I would not have planted it myself. It was bred in the fifties which means natural disease resistance was not really taken into account. It is not suited to organic growing and I prefer healthier cultivars. That being said, even though our tree is severely cankered, every year it gives us a big harvest of good tasting apples.


apple ManksCodlin

Manks Codlin
use: mainly for baking
year: 1815
picking: from the beginning of September
storage: September -beginning of November
pollination: self-fertile
This is an old English variety from the Isle of Man. The fruits have a slightly conic shape and are yellow-green with a red blush on the sun side. The skin is waxy. It is a vigorous tree that starts bearing early. The one in our backyard is pruned as a loose cordon. “Manks Codlin” used to be grown specifically for bakers and it is excellent for apple dumplings. Most of the apples we harvested this year were cored, filled with a mix of dried fruits marinated in brandy and nuts and baked in the oven. I find it weirdly satisfying to grow an apple in the garden with such a specific purpose!


apple Groninger Kroon

Groninger Kroon
use: mostly for cooking
year: around 1875
picking: from the end of September
storage: till January
pollination: self-fertile and a good pollinator for other varieties
Groningen is a northern province here in the Netherlands and this is where the variety was found as a chance seedling. We planted a tree grafted on a dwarfing rootstock four years ago on our allotment. Last year we harvested the first apples (two) and this year the harvest was already more substantial. It is a generally healthy variety, somewhat susceptible to scab. The juicy red apples are rich in vitamin C and though they are primarily cookers, they can certainly be eaten raw too.


apple Glorie Van Holland

Glorie van Holland
use: for eating (also good for cooking and juicing)
year: 1890
picking: mid September
storage: till end of November
pollination: self-infertile, can be pollinated by a.o. Jonathan, Groninger Kroon, Bramley’s Seedling…
As the proud name (Glory of Holland) will have you know, this, too, is an old Dutch variety. Which again means it is well adapted to local conditions and consequently does well here, without the aid of chemicals. We grow it next to “Groninger Kroon” which serves as a pollinator. This year we harvested the first apples and loved the lightly sour taste and subtle aroma. This view was shared by the participants of the course on edible forest gardening I was teaching in September, where several different varieties were sampled.

So this is our collection at the moment – if I ever have a garden large enough I am planning on planting many more!

I would love to hear about any varieties you grow wherever you live!

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