Thursday, August 30, 2012

Three-star apples

Today I am please to introduce the third and final category in my qualitative system of rating eating apples. I also name three varieties that in my opinion deserve three stars, "exceptional apple, worth a quest."

Three-star apples, eaten at their peak, have superb flavor, texture, and appearance. Like the one- and two-star apples, they may be partially selected on the basis of being particularly good representatives of their type or having a special place in the history of the fruit.

None of the ratings give any weight to whether a variety is an heirloom or originates as a foundling pippin or is rare.

Today's three three-star apples are a case in point: tiny Wickson, only-slightly-larger Chestnut Crab, and marvelous Macoun. All are less than 100 years old and the product of modern breeding efforts. Macoun is readily available in the Northeast and other parts of the country.

Wickson is a crunchy crabapple-sized fruit with complex flavors of malt and spice. It is the work of legendary fruit breeder Albert Etter, who named it for another famous California pomologist, Edward Wickson.

Tiny Chestnut Crabapple packs big rich flavors that balance and harmonize exceptionally well. It was bred in the 1940s at the University of Minnesota, originator (decades later) of Honeycrisp and Sweetango.

Macoun at peak is a triumph: crisp white juicy flesh with a breaking crunch, bearing floral, spicy, and strawberry flavors painted on a superbly balanced vinous backdrop.

Macoun is a longtime favorite of mine and in addition to my review I have posted additional praise.

I have a few more three-star varieties to name, but this qualitative way of evaluating apples is now complete. I hope that readers will find it a useful guide to some unfamiliar varieties, and also that they will form their own opinions.


  1. Just a quick comment here to affirm that Wickson are totally worth a quest. I planted a Wickson (on M111 rootstock) six years ago and it has reliably born the absolute tastiest fruit in 2010, 2011 and this season. Having read your description of it, I mostly agree. The smooth sugary flavor in the fruit -- which could very well equate to malt -- transitions quickly but easily into sharp acidity. Super tasty for eating, but I want to make cider w/them -- I'm glad I planted a couple more in my home orchard.

    Thanks for running this blog. I have learned so much from it.

    1. Nate: Great minds think alike!

      A wonderful variety for which I do not have a regular source, alas.


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