Every Kind of Apple & What to Use Them For

By: Rowan Jacobsen

Your ultimate guide to apple varieties from A to Z, including heirloom apples worth seeking out.

This fall go back to the heirloom apple varieties that are being resurrected around America. They’ll blow you away with their eclectic looks, tastes and textures. Read about each apple below and enjoy amazing sweet and savory apple recipes. Photography by Erica Allen, styling by Liz Neily and text by Rowan Jacobsen from his book Apples of Uncommon Character (Bloomsbury, 2014).
Related: 30+ Amazing Apple Recipes
Ananas Reinette
A small, yellow apple with green dots just beneath the surface and some raised, triangular brown lenticels. With time and sun exposure, the skin blushes the yellow-orange of a Meyer lemon. Flavor: An acid bomb....With full tree ripening, the famous pineapple flavor arrives.
Ashmead’s Kernel
You wouldn’t look twice at the homely little apple on the street, but beneath the drab clothing lies a wild child that will push the extremes of honeyed sweetness and racy acidity until you cry for mercy.
People have raved about Baldwin’s fresh eating qualities for centuries, but to me it’s even more successful in pies (where its hardness holds), when dried (a mysterious chanterelle flavor emerges), and in hard cider.
Black Oxford
Green-skinned and splashed with brick-purple in early fall, it transforms into an extraordinary purple-black by November. No apples feels so much like you’re gazing into the sky on a clear, icy New England night. A supremely talented apple that can do most anything asked of it.
A Braeburn is a reliably satisfying eating experience and a supermarket manager’s dream. Unlike some of the other modern apples, which seem to fancy themselves crunchy mangos, Braeburns are emphatically appley.
Claygate Pearmain
Deliciously spicy, the Claygate opens with fruity pineapple sweetness, then blossoms with watermelon rind or green tomato aromas as you chew (and chew you must!). The finish echoes with notes of guarapo, pear, and nutmeg.

Caville Blanc
The most famously ribbed of all apples, its five prominent lobes make it look more quince than apple. Shiny and deep green in September, it gradually turns yellow-pink in the sun. The snow-white flesh will not brown easily. Flavor: Simple, acid, clean, lemony.

Cox’s Orange Pippin
Think ambrosia salad—pineapple, oranges, marshmallows, and coconut. With lime squeezed over the top. And a sprinkle of flower petals. Cox rarely loses a taste contest.
Esopus Spitzenberg
Pick in October. Give it a month to mellow unless you are a sour fanatic. The flavor takes off around the winter solstice, and will hold in cold storage through spring. This apple can do anything.
Hewes Crab
Bite into a Hewes Crab and you’ll be left with a mouthful of lime and quinine; it’s a brutal gin tonic of a fruit. The bitter, astringent finish carries fruity, hopslike perfume notes. Somehow that all sugars out into a stunning cider...
Sweet, tart, and astringent, with a vinous twang like fresh cider that has started to go fizzy in the fridge. In storage, the acidity disappears, revealing a delightful toasted-almond flavor, like marzipan.
Knobbed Russet
There is nothing wrong with this apple. This is how it looks when everything goes right. Once you peel off the skin (surprisingly easy), you’ll discover a sweet, funky, tasty beast both perfumed and earthy at the same time.
Hidden Rose
Like the world’s crunchiest strawberry, tart and juicy, delightfully light and refreshing. Display in slices on a smorgasbord, since it stays pink instead of turning brown. A kid fave. Makes zany sauce. Passable in pie.
Like a prize stud bull, Cox[’s Orange Pippin] has been used by breeders, both amateur and professional, to sire at least eighty successful children, including Ellison’s Orange, Elstar, Fiesta, Freyberg, Golden Nugget, Holstein...
Hudson’s Golden Gem
This apple thinks it’s a pear. The shape, the color, the russeting, the intense aromatics. Even the granular texture is pearlike.... Really, this is one of the greats.
Gala is like a jet-setting movie star, comfortable (and stylish) in almost any continent or role. You’ll see it in New Zealand, in Asia, in the UK (where it is squeezing out its grandparent, Cox’s Orange Pippin), and more and more in the United States, where it is now the number-two apple...
Lamb Abbey Pearmain
Lime-size, cute, round, splattered with red-orange paint and white lenticels, like a baby Gala. Lamb Abbey Pearmain is flat-out yummy. It has the Juicy Fruit jelly bean flavors of Fuji and Gala, with more zing and better crunch.
An ancient apple, with a special connection to Christmas that has been fairly unchanged for hundreds of years.... Few sights are prettier than a Lady tree full of apples. The fruit hangs tight to the tree’s long, upright branches...like natural garlands, thirty or forty to a branch.
Macs taste cidery. It’s an edge-of-fermented flavor, like soft strawberries, what the old books used to refer to as vinous. They are savory and tart, with the slightest edge of curry lingering on your lips...
The fruit has a notable peculiarity. Even when fully ripe in autumn, it is hard, green, astringent, and inedible. It is picked at this stage and stored in moist bran or sawdust until it browns and softens, a process called ‘bletting’.
Northern Spy
When you bite into it, there is a fleeting salvo of something rich and fruity, then the blast of sharpness arrives with a classic apple nose. Crisp and tender. Perfect. An apple’s apple. Northern Spy is fun to eat.
Orleans Reinette
Savor it fresh. You could do worse than follow the lead of Edward Bunyard, the British nurseryman: “As a background for an old port it stands solitary and unapproachable.” Excellent dried. Great for cooking, where its zesty quality makes it a good foil for meat.
Reine des Reinettes
Some apples have an ineffable quality that pomologists refer to as “lively.” To me, it means that the flavor engages with the eater, comes alive in the mouth, and startles the taste buds. It demands to be thought about. Reine des Reinettes is lively.
Rhode Island Greening
Get Rhode Island Greening early in the fall, when it is still assertively tart. It should be as green as grass. Once the sienna hues creep into the skin later in the fall, it will make for sweeter fresh eating, but a wimpier pie.
Roxbury Russett
Yummy and strange. Early in the season, its sweetness is almost completely overrun by aggressive, almost painful acid. It’s like biting into a kumquat. By early winter, the acid gives way to a delicious, rich persimmon with nutty undertones.
In your average tasting of heirloom apples, this ranks dead last. It actually has decent flavor, but that’s beside the point, because it’s almost impossible to get beyond the texture.... Like sinking your teeth into an old baked potato.