Monday, February 23, 2009

Empire *

The blush on this apple often runs to a handsome deep purplish red, decorated with many light lenticels. Even where the blush is uneven and streaky, (over yellow green), some of the stripes may reach this deep color. The fruit is a large medium, moderately ribbed, and can be conical, as in our photo. There are faint dull patches on the skin of my sample that are almost like a bloom, but I take them to be scuffs in the wax that is regularly applied to apples shipped across country.

For Empires keep and travel well, and even though they are grown locally the Empires sold out of season generally come from New York (where they were bred) or farther. This is the time of year I start to eat a lot of them. Of all the industrial apples they have the most traditional taste. (McIntoshs are available in supermarkets into the spring, but they just do not hold up well in long-term storage.)

The apple-juice-and-berries aroma of my sample is very faint, which may be a result of controlled-atmosphere storage.

The flesh is a fine-grained light creamy yellow, juicy and pleasantly crisp without being challenging to the tooth. The flavor is balanced with more sweet than tart, a little vinous, with berry notes. I think of Empire as a simpler, more generic Macoun.

Macoun and Empire have McIntosh as a parent in common, and McIntosh's gifts are apparent in Empire's vinous depth, as far as it goes. Its other parent, Red Delicious, lends its color and durability (and shape, sometimes, as in with our photographed example).

Empire is also, like Macoun, a product of Cornell University's Agricultural Experiment Station and its admirable breeding program.

Update: Empire ripens in the fall, and that's when I resampled one fresh (more or less) from the tree. That experience is here.


  1. I have been eating tree-ripened Empire for about seven days. When these come on I eat nothing else until Pink Lady and other fall apples. I like ripe Empire apples a great deal.

  2. I love the vinous taste of an Empire apple. Are there any other similar tasting varieties that you know of, with a stronger vinous taste?

    1. Empire gets its vinousness from the McIntosh family. So try Mac, Macoun, Jonamac, Burgundy, Cortland, Liberty, or any other members of that family.


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