Autumn Bounty: Heirloom Apples to New Hybrids… NOW’s the Time to Give Them a Try!


As of mid-September: Autumn apple season is in full swing at the Santa Rosa farmers market. Since I’ve been feeling inspired to try my hand at various apple cuisine projects, we brought home an armload.

Brenda, one of our favorite vendors, had apples arranged in boxes from tartest to sweetest at her fruit stand. These are the four apple varieties we bought: JonaGold (the sweetest), Gala, Fuji, & Granny Smith (the tartest). Of the four, my favorite by far this year were the Fujis with a crisp juicy crunch (no mealiness) and the perfect tart-sweet contrast that makes for a superb eating apple.

And that’s just what we did, ate them ALL before I had a chance to cook any apple recipes. So, I’ve included links to other folks’ creations for your inspiration.

In the meantime, thought you might enjoy learning a bit about each apple variety’s history. I sure did!

I’m dividing this into a series of posts (starting with the Jonagold apple on the left of the intro photo)….there’s simply too much interesting info to stuff it all into one article.

JONAGOLD Apples (Malus domestica)

Apple divas #1: Jonagolds, as you apple aficionados may know, are a hybrid cross between ‘Jonathan,’ a vintage heirloom apple variety, and the ever popular ‘Golden Delicious’ apple, which really ARE delicious if you grow or buy the older types from local apple growers.

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Here’s a bit more on ‘Golden Delicious’ apples heritage:

  • Parentage: Grimes Golden (fairly certain)
  • Origin: United States
  • Introduced: 1890s
  • Appearance: Green turning to a lovely yellow gold when ripe


golden delicious apple
‘Golden Delicious’ Apple Photo © 2010 New York Apple Association

One of the most important apple varieties of the 20th century, Golden Delicious apples are an extremely popular commercial success plus used as breeding stock for many other wonderful  apples (Here’s a list).

When Marc was a toddler, we lived by a neighbor in Marin county who had an enormous mature ‘Golden Delicious’ apple tree. We helped them harvest by propping really tall ladders into its branches, ending up with boxes and boxes of apples from a single tree!

So MANY apples that their traditional family of five plus our shared community household of five young adults plus two toddlers couldn’t possibly eat all those apples before they spoiled.

Kevin, one of the fellows in our community family, loved baking. He made apple pies & vegetarian mince pies, and we made applesauce. With lots of apples left over, we ended up juicing the rest to put in the freezer for later. Wish it had occurred to me to make apple butter and apple jelly back then. Sure am having fun doing it now!

Anyway, back to Jonagolds…

  • Parentage: Golden Delicious x Jonathan
  • Origin: United States
  • Introduced: 1943
  • Appearance: Yellow of ‘Golden Delicious’ with large flushes of red
jonagold apples in farm market crate
Jonagold apples in a farm market crate

Jonagold, a superb golden-red American apple, developed in the 1940s, is prized for its delicious, rich, full  flavor. Usually having a yellow background and an orangish-red blush, some may be appear dominantly red. A large apple, Jonagolds are great for eating out-of-hand, crisp and juicy to bite into with slightly tart, gleaming white flesh, a sweet flavor with a balancing acidity – yummy – and many folks’ favorite! Jonagold Apple, a connoisseurs’ choice because of its excellent cooking properties, at one time was the most popular apple in Western Europe.

Excellent for home growers as well as for commercial sales, it’s widely grown and not limited to the warm apple regions…quite unusual for a ‘Golden Delicious’ apple cross. Not heat tolerant, Jonagolds require mildly cool growing conditions. It’s a precocious (early bearing), productive tree in US apple-growing regions. If you are interested in growing Jonagold, be aware it’s a triploid hybrid and will not cross fertilize other apple trees.

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Jonagold’s other parent, Jonathan, is a classic old American apple variety discovered in the 1800s.

  • Parentage: Espopus Spitzenberg seedling
  • Origin: United States
  • Introduced: 1864
‘Jonathan’ an American heirloom apple

Widely regarded as one of the best flavored apples with a good sweet/sharp balance and spicy nuances, Jonathan is many apple fanciers’ favorite. Hard to find as old orchards have been replaced with newer types of apples. Very popular in Japan, where it’s sold as “Kougyoku.”


~ Eileen of has posted two recipes you may enjoy: Dutch Apple Cake and Fresh Apple Cake (PDF), a family recipe from Eileen’s Aunt Elizabeth.

~ This delectable looking recipe from www.The uses Golden Delicious apples in an  Apple-Blackberry Pie with Ginger

~ And Anita (aka: PastryGirl) of created this unusual, healthfully yummy dessert: Baked Apples with Dried Fruits and Nuts

~ Crustless Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream sounds delectable, too:


  • Golden Delicious apple photo: Photo Courtesy of New York Apple Association © 2010  New York Apple Association
  • The farm market crate photo of Jonagold apples:
  • Jonathan apple photo: A beautiful apple gallery at
  • See more photos, read apple tasters reviews, and learn much more at, a terrific source of apple info!

3 thoughts on “Autumn Bounty: Heirloom Apples to New Hybrids… NOW’s the Time to Give Them a Try!”

  1. Glad you posted this link, Victoria! It sent me on a 30 minute exploration of their site, looking at pictures reading about the gorgeous pink & red apples, their roses (apples & roses are in the same family!), figs, peaches, pears, and plums. If we had a larger place, I’d grow a small orchards for sure!

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