Friday, December 9, 2011

King David

A nice tart apple, but also a reminder to take my reviews with a grain of salt.

Today's heirloom is small and classically shaped with very little ribbing. Its red blush, streaky to saturated, covers half to most of the yellow-green peel. David's lenticels are small, dark on the green and light on the blush.

Squeezing one feels very firm, and there is a faint mossy smell.

The flesh of King David is medium-fine-grained and white shot with green. This apple has a great crunch and is a little chewy.

For taste, there is refreshing tartness balanced by some sweet, along with some active acidity. Cane sugar and lime notes leave a nice clean feeling in my mouth.

I'd want one of these guys as a chaser or as part of a medley of apples. Despite the acidity I nibbled David down to the core.

Over at Apples and Oranges Kevin Hauser praises this variety. His description might be of a different apple completely. Its blush there is so dark and saturated that he initially mistakes it for Arkansas Black, and he finds a "deep, rich, winey taste that ripens in November."

Day 6: January in Southern California
Apples grow here too!
(Photo courtesy Vicky Segwick)
Kevin's fruit grows under very different conditions than those that obtain here in New England. He is devoted to defying conventional wisdom about apples (and does so successfully and often).

November works out to something like January in Massachusetts years, converting from Kevin's Southern California growing season.

Furthermore my samples were picked in September, a month too early according to the old Stark Brothers catalog Kevin cites.

Thinking about that raises some humbling questions about this blog. Where do I get off passing judgment on these varieties based on a few samples that may or may not be representative?

That I do the best I can with what I have, and that everything is rebuttable on principle, is worth repeating. Especially so for varieties that did not originate in the region where I live.

After reading Kevin's account I held one sample back until November to see if the flavors changed in storage. They did but in unremarkable ways (attenuation, mostly).

Writing about King David in Best Apples to Buy and Grow, Curt Rom says, "The occasional argument over whether this is a sweet or tart apple indicates some seasonal variation and a well-balanced combination of sugars and acids." Certainly, but add sensitivity to climate and local growing conditions to "seasonal variation."

Sources seem to agree that King David is a Jonathon cross but disagree about with what (Winesap and Arkansas Black mentioned as possibilities).

Update November 2012: I am pleased to report a new King David tasting review based on some top-quality apples.

The new review replaces this one in my opinionated catalog of apples. Meanwhile, the comments below may be of interest.


  1. My friend John Bunker up in Maine grows King David which you can see on their spiffy Fedco Seeds Facebook page at!/photo.php?fbid=260639197321489&set=a.260638673988208.93474.241068365945239&type=1&theater

    The photo is not nearly as dark as the one on my masthead, but they also consider it one of the most flavorful apples they grow.

    The ones at our local mountains if picked too early in the season are still pretty good, resembling Winesap in taste and color. But if left on the tree another month it totally changes character into the burgundy beauty with the dark, rich taste. It bears further testing as I consider it a great forgotten apple.

    I also considered your comments about judging an apple from just one sample, as during our entire tour of New England this fall, we only tasted one or two apples that we would consider remarkable. This either means that our samples were too early or two late, or that New Englanders don't have very good apples. I humbly assume the former is true.

  2. I bought some King David apples last week at our winter market. The flavor was pretty balanced just slightly on the tart side. The texture was firm/chewy and pretty juicy. It is a nice refreshing apple - my first example was not aromatic but still satisfying. I have another one in the fridge.

    As far as judging an apple on just a few tastes:

    I think it is fine and in this forum we can go back an update the cultivar page after we try a later example that may be different from earlier examples. It is an adventure!

  3. Just for the record, here's that link from Kufflecreek to the photo of King David. (Blogger does not play nice with long urls in the comments, do not know why.)

  4. Had the other King David today. It was a bit past the chewy stage, entering on mealy. The acidity was less pronounce and it was more aromatic than the earlier example. I got a tangerine flavor in this one. Not a bad apple at all!

    1. I'm in eastern Washington state and drove half-way west, near Wenatchee, to buy some heritage apples last October '11. Among others, I got a bag full of King David: color, size and shape like classic Winesap; flesh golden, sweet, some tart, spice - and my wife likened it to caramel: butter and brown sugar. I think these were high Brix, say 15, and their quality diminished just four weeks later, becoming soft with most of the aroma vanishing into air. It seems this would be a wonderful addition to a cider blend. I'm in the midst of grafting King David this spring.

    2. My own experienced, limited to just a few apples, has been nothing special.

      Still based on King David's great reputation I look forward to finding some really good examples someday.

  5. King David rocks here in Northern California. Lots of sun and hot weather has them leaning toward the black side of red. The flavor is outstanding and strong enough to balance well with acidity, sugar and an astringent peel. It is a popular apple with heirloom growers here. It has a good measure of acidity, but my friend who is a sweet apple liker still likes it because the sugars go so high that they balance the acid out. It's an excellent apple that we're eating a lot of here in late Oct. I find that locating good samples of any apple is challenging around here. Early picking is one of the main culprits, but I think overwatering and overfeeding are right up there too.


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