Early apple varieties are those which ripen from August to mid September. Most do not keep for long and are best eaten straight off the tree or soon after picking. There are not many good early apples. They often lack flavour or drop very quickly. One of the best is Sunrise. It is crisp and juicy and its fresh fruity flavour with a good balance of sweetness and acidity which would appeal to most. It has the big advantage of having a very long season for an early apple from mid August to late September. However it does have the disadvantage of being rather susceptible to apple scab and as such best avoided in wet regions. Discovery would be a good alternative August apple with resistance to apple scab. Commercially grown Discovery bought from shops often lacks flavour but grown in your own garden and allowed to ripen properly on the tree the flavour is much better. Rosette is an interesting new red fleshed version. Moving on to September ripening apples we would recommend two sweet apples Nuvar® Golden Hills and Scrumptious. Many people are put off yellow apples because they associate them with rather tasteless commercially grown Golden Delicious. Don’t be put off by the colour of Golden Hills. It is bright yellow in colour and sweet but full of favour. It has good disease resistance and an excellent choice, particularly if you like sweet apples. Scrumptious is also a very good sweet disease resistant early apple.
Mid season varieties are ones which ripen from mid September until mid October. They will keep longer than early varieties - typically until the end of November. Lord Lambourne is an excellent mid season apple which is crisp and juicy with a simple flavour that would appeal to most. It also has very good disease resistance. Egremont Russet is another popular mid season apple. It has a russet skin, firm slightly dry flesh with a sweet nutty flavour which has a special appeal for many but not all. Red Windsor is a very good mid season apple. It has a Cox type flavour but is sweeter and also much easier to grow. If you like the Cox flavour but prefer sharper tasting apples Sunset would be a good choice. Rubinola is a new mid season variety bred for apple scab resistance. It is one of the most beautiful apples with a delicate pattern of lines with different shades of red which look as if they have been hand-painted. It is juicy, melting in the mouth with an excellent sweet flavour. If you want an unusual mid season apple try Pitmaston Pine Apple. It is small golden russet apple not much larger than a crab apple but with an intense pineapple type flavour.
Late varieties are ones that are picked in early October and will keep well in storage and often improve in flavour with keeping. There are many and they include some of the finest flavoured apples. For the cooler northern parts of the country it is best to avoid some of the latest ripening varieties because of the shorter summer season. Rajka is another new variety bred for disease resistance well worth considering. It is crisp juicy, sweet red apple which would appeal to most. Adams Pearmain is an old variety with the nutty flavour similar to Egremont Russet and an unusual shape. Elstar is a lovely red flushed apple which it keeps it delicious fruity flavour even after long storage. Herefordshire Russet is a new russet skinned apple with a Cox type flavour and good disease resistance. If you like a firm sharp apple, have a look at Topaz and Otava. Both are excellent disease resistant varieties producing small compact trees. If you prefer an apple which is both traditional in appearance and taste you would like Ashmead’s Kernel. It has a strong sweet sharp flavour and a rustic look. It is the apple to have with cheese and port after dinner on a cold winter night. It has good disease resistance but is a fairly light cropper. We would like to recommend two other new Cox type apples: Nuvar™ Cheerfull Gold™ and Christmas Pippin. Cheerfull Gold is firm crisp and fairly sharp flavoured. Christmas Pippin is a sweeter fruit. Red Falstaff is another good all-round, heavy cropping late apple which would appeal to most.
Bramley’s Seedling is of course the classic English cooking apple ideal for apple sauce and many other uses. It keeps very well and retains its acidity more than most other cooking apples. For smaller dwarf trees Bramley 20 a less vigorous version of Bramley is best. Some prefer less acid varieties for baking and cakes. Jumbo and Bountiful are two modern cooking apples which are excellent baking apples of this kind. Karmijn de Sonnaville is a lovely Cox flavoured cooker from Holland which is ideal for cakes and for drying. For an early cooker we recommend James Grieve which can also be used as a dessert apple.