Monday, December 12, 2011

Pomme Gris vs. Ashmead's Kernel smackdown

Pomme Gris (left) meets Ashmead's Kernel in a medley of fall colors
I was lucky this fall to bag two superlative russet varieties, Pomme Gris and Ashmead's Kernel. These were the best examples of these varieties I have ever had.

So which is best?

While Pomme Gris, at left, is small and most of my Ashmeads approach medium-sized, there is considerable variation. Both are round with modest ribbing, though the ribs of Pomme Gris are a little more prominent.

Both are russeted though the Gray Apple's rough jacket is mostly complete, and coppery down to a green tinge. (The occasional patch of unrusseted skin is a bright spring green.)

Meanwhile Ashmead's blush, a subdued dusty rose orange, covers about half of each of my samples. Its russet is sparer, two toned, a brown suede stippling over tawny yellow, and russeted lenticels add another visual layer. Pomme Gris is a looker, but Ashmead wins the beauty contest.

Ashmead's flesh is crisp and juicy, bearing flavors of lemon-drops and the savory quality that Morton Shand likens to marrow (see review). Pomme Gris is sweeter and similarly firm and fine-grained, lemonade with a hit of vanilla. It is not quite so juicy.

The Pomme Gris is really good, but Ashmead is outstanding. It delivers a nice measured dollup of acidity that makes every flavor more vibrant and present. Pomme Gris suffers by comparison, which is really not fair to that great apple.

Oh, and Ashmead's Kernel seems to hold up a little better than the Gray Apple over time.

I got both of these varieties at Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton. They alone justified the trip north.


  1. Next year we should press some pomme gris cider and ashmeads cider and compare the two separate, and then blend them at different percentages. Id be safe to say the ashmeads would take care of the juice yield and acidity. Pomme gris would add lighter more golden russet- esqe translucent cider to balance the "high flavor" of the ashmeads. Gould hill says they sell bushels... so I can source them there for the experiment. I'll look into it. I'll have only 25 ashmeads as they are moderate producers. However I have 30 pomme gris in the ground this year, and 20 more in the nursery to harvest/plant in 2013. I'll have about 60 pomme gris once I'm done planting.

  2. Pomme gris is one of the most reliable annually bearing russet I know. Although many people plant golden russet, the smaller like gris is more spreading, and vigorous in growth habit...thus producing a higher cumulative yield for a standard tree...albeit a bit smaller Apple. If you're concerned about adequate sizing...try pomme gris on a 5 wire trellis system, with a modified Slender spindle training system. The key is HAND THINNING key word here...chemical thinners are too sporadic for Pomme gris in my opinion and for russets in general. Remove king blossom and leave one or two fruits on each spur. Make sure there are more % of two-fruit spurs than single fruits or cumulative yield will suffer.

    1. "Pomme Gris...higher cumulative yield..." Good to know. I had an Ashmead and got very little fruit, ever. What few it produced squirrels snagged long before they were ripe. Gave it away to make room for something else, and I may have a surprise awaiting squirrels that venture into my yard in years to come. It is a pity about Ashmead's, though, for it is superlative eating.

    2. More vigorous than Golden Russet? Wow, Golden Russet is a tip bearer and pretty vigorous. I plan on grafting Pomme Gris to M7 rootstock. How tall would you expect Pomme Gris to be at maturity on a half standard? Any additional grower notes on this variety? Not a lot of information online other than Apples of New York.


    3. Since writing my other entry, I found enough evidence to conclude Pomme Grise should prove a manageable 12' on Gen202 on my rather thin soil. I selected that root stock because it produces less than will Gen935 and be near the size of M26. PG apparently is a prodigious bearer, and often comes among top 5 in taste tests at Colonial Williamsburg; sounds good enough to me. PG on M7 will probably average 14', unless you have amazing conditions.

  3. Ashmead's Kernal really is an outstanding apple, great to eat, juice or keep, the only drawback being the (mostly)moderate yield. Having said that we had soem really good crops from different orchards this year to last but trees that did well last time didnt this so maybe they are a bit biennial. Not many to touch this nutty gem though, particularly for juice which everyone used to regular juice finds mindblowing


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