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The Longfield Apple

There’s a good chance the Longfield apple doesn’t ring a bell, and that’s okay.

After being popular at the turn of the twentieth century, Longfield apples are rare today. While their lineage lives on in a few varieties, overall, they’ve fallen out of favor among fruit lovers, overshadowed by a wildly popular apple that was cultivated at the same time. It’s a shame, though. Longfields are a hardy variety of apple that can grow quickly and abundantly, giving farmers a strong ROI for harvesting.

Keep reading to learn the interesting, if unfortunate, twist of fate that change the future of the Longfield apple and sent it into obscurity.

Yellow and red apples in a basket, similar to Longfield apples.

Longfield Apples History

Longfields were first imported from Russia by the USDA in 1870. Because they originated so far north, their trees can withstand cold climates. Other varieties of Longfields were brought over from Europe by the Iowa Agricultural College.

With its delightfully sour taste, the Longfield apple was poised for popularity in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, this was the same time that the Granny Smith, another famously tart apple, took the world by storm, leaving Longfields in the dust, the William Dawes to Granny Smith’s Paul Revere.

Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith — the apple that thwarted the Longfield apple’s dream of greatness.

Longfield Apple Tree / Apple Characteristics

The Longfield tree is medium in size with short, moderately stout, crooked branches. The branches can take on a drooping quality as the tree grows initially, which makes it seem unhealthy or not aesthetically pleasing. But give it time and it can develop into a beautiful tree.

Longfields are able to start producing apples after three years, relatively fast by apple tree standards. The branches and trunk are a hardy stock thanks to being cultivated in countries with harsh winters.

Longfield Apples

Longfield apples are a pale yellow color brushed with vibrant shades of red as they ripen. They do tend to bruise easily, so handle with care. Inside, their flesh is bright white, crisp, and very tender.

A fully grown Longfield is usually about medium size or slightly below, about 2-3 inches in diameter. They do not grow large, but that allows them to pack more punch in their taste. That taste is subacid — best described as sour, very similar to the Granny Smith.

Basket of yellow and red apples.

Eating and Cooking Longfields

Like other apples, Longfields can be eaten right off the tree, just as nature intended. Originally, when brought to America, they were classified as dessert apples meant to be eaten raw. If purchased, it’s best practice to wash before consuming in case crops have been sprayed with pesticides. They should be stored in a moderate climate. They can be stored in a refrigerator to stay preserved, but make sure to let them sit out a day before eating to get the more flavorful taste. Eating refrigerated fruits saps them of their flavor.

A basket of red and yellow apples on a table.

Cooking

Longfields are great for cooking. Because they are compact and robust, they are better at keeping their shape and flavor when cooked. Their sourness is enhanced when paired with sweeter, spicier apples in pies and crisps. Baked apples or apple slices are two popular recipes to try. The cinnamon found in baked apples brings out new flavors of the apple. The sugary glaze of apple slices makes for a delicious contrast to the tartness of the Longfield.

Yellow and red apples on a table.

Food Pairings

They can also be a fantastic snack option on their own or paired with other foods. Their fiber and water content can help satiate hunger between meals. They can also be mixed with other fruits like oranges, grapes, and berries in a salad. The popular combo of apples dipped in caramel would work great with Longfields. Their sour taste mixes well with the caramel, ensuring your snack isn’t too sweet and keeping you from a sugar coma. Same goes for apples and honey, which can be a popular snack outside of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. Spreading peanut butter on sliced apples enables you to add a burst of protein to a mid-afternoon snack.

Would kids enjoy snacking on Longfields, too? That’s debatable, and can very much depend on the child. Kids’ taste buds are very sensitive, and the sourness of the Longfield may be too much for them. Some kids are open to trying new tastes while others are…less malleable. Your mileage will definitely vary here, but generally, kids do better with sweeter apples like McIntosh.

Apple slices with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Longfield Health Benefits

There are no Longfield-only health benefits, or at least, none that have been researched by scientists. Fortunately, Longfields do carry the same nutrients as other apples. They are low in fat and sodium, and rich in fiber and antioxidants. Each apple providing about 4 grams of fiber, 20% of recommended daily intake for women and 13% for men. Remember to eat the peel; that’s where most of the fiber lives.

Apples do contain sugar, but it’s fructose, a natural sugar that the body can process without increasing blood sugar levels when eaten raw. Baking or mashing up apples can alter nutritional value.

Growing Longfield Apples

It’s too bad that Longfield apples didn’t catch on in America since they make for an excellent fruit tree to grow and care for.

Closeup of a yellow and red apple on a tree.

Sunlight, Soil, Water

  • Apple trees need at least 6 hours a day of full sunlight.
  • They prefer rich, well-draining, loamy soil with a pH range of 6.0-6.5.
  • Deep watering a few times a week is far better than frequent, light watering.

Fertilizing

Apple trees should be fed half a pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer spread around each tree. Give them their first feeding about three weeks after planting and again in the fall after the leaves have dropped.

Spraying

Spray apples to treat or prevent diseases and pests.  Read our blog post about spraying apple trees for all the information you’ll need to know when, how, and what to spray.

Diseases, Pests

Apple trees are susceptible to certain diseases and some are more serious than others.  To know how to identify, treat, and even prevent them, click here for our blog post about common apple tree diseases.

Besides diseases, pests are another concern for any apple grower.  Like diseases, some pests are more troublesome than others so knowing the signs to watch for is key.  Click here for information on identifying and eradicating pests, as well as preventive measures to keep pests from returning.

Pruning

Apple trees require annual pruning to stay healthy and to produce their best yields.  Visit our blog post about pruning apple trees to learn how to prune like a pro!

Harvesting

They usually ripen by the middle of September, and their harvest can be very plentiful. A Longfield tree can produce so many apples that they start to overshadow each other. Make sure to be diligent about picking on a regular schedule!

Where To Buy a Longfield Apple Tree

Longfield apple trees seem to be one of those “holy grail” varieties. While they aren’t unavailable to home growers, they may as well be as they’re impossible to find. No online retailers list them in their inventory.

But if you’re determined to have one of these for your garden, you may have to make contact with retailers and be tenacious about tracking down a Longfield. Local farmers may also have the skinny on where to find Longfield seeds to grow your own trees. If there are no local apple growers, then reach out to orchards online and connect with apple growers via social media.

Where to Buy Longfield Apples

Unfortunately, Longfield apples don’t seem to be publicly available. They are not mass produced for grocery stores, most likely because the Granny Smith checks a lot of the same boxes. *Shakes fist at Granny Smiths*

If you want to try Longfields, your best bet is to visit farmer’s markets to see if any local orchards are growing them. You can also reach out to orchards directly to see if they have them in stock. If they don’t, they may have more information on where to track down Longfields.

Wrapping Up the Longfield Apple

Red and yellow apples in a basket and on a rug.

Over the years, the Longfield has been cross-pollinated and its descendants live on. The Red Sharon and Fireside apples are both a cross breed of McIntosh and Longfield, and Fireside are one of Minnesota’s most popular apples.

Most likely, you’ll need to go on a hunt to track Longfields down, but the results will be worth it. The Longfield apple has a vivid reddish yellow skin and sour taste that will make your senses come alive. Their trees can blossom quickly and bear lots of fruit, making them advantageous for growers.

Longfield apples are prime candidates to be rediscovered by modern society. Everyone loves a comeback!

If you’re a gardener who’s lucky enough to have one of these rare apples, we’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below! To read about other apples, click here for our apple blog posts.