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The Rhode Island Greening Apple

There are few apples as historically significant as the Rhode Island Greening Apple. It’s one of the oldest and most antiquated European-American apple varieties in the United States. However, unlike other antique apple varieties that have come and gone with the times, the Rhode Island Greening apple is still grown today. For nearly three and a half centuries, this remarkable apple has been a staple of the New England states.

If you’re curious about whether or not you can, or should, add the Rhode Island Greening apple to your home orchard, you’ve come to the right place.

Cluster of green apples growing on tree similar to the Rhode Island Greening apple.

History of the Rhode Island Greening Apple

The Rhode Island Greening apple was first discovered and planted near Green’s End in Middletown, Rhode Island, around 1650. It was discovered by Mr. Green, a tavern owner, and operator. No, Mr. Green isn’t a character out of the board game, Clue. History didn’t keep track of his first name. However, because he discovered it, the Greening in the apples’ name pays Mr. Green homage.

Mr. Green grew and dappled with apple varieties as a hobby and routinely gave visitors seeds and scions. They would then graft the Rhode Island Greening apple, then known as the Green’s Inn apple, into trees in their locale. This allowed for the spread of the apple to other parts of the United States. While it’s still grown today, the Rhode Island Greening apple peaked in the 19th century when it was one of the top apples in the country.

Closeup of yellow-green apples on tree.

Characteristics of Rhode Island Greening Apple

The Rhode Island Greening apple is similar to the now more popular Granny Smith variety. It’s crisp, juicy, tart, and often used in baking. The apples are large, uniformly round in shape, and flattened on the ends. They also have dark, waxy, green skin that is greenish-yellow when fully ripe.

Rhode Island Greening is a triploid apple variety – with three sets of chromosomes rather than the usual two sets. Triploid apple tree varieties tend to be hardier and larger than other apple trees. However, they also take longer to grow and can’t pollinate other varieties.

Closeup of bright yellow-green apples on tree.

Flavor Profile

Much like the Granny Smith apple, the Rhode Island Greening is tart, crisp, and juicy. While you can optionally eat it raw, this apple variety is best-utilized in baking, specifically in apple pies. The Rhode Island Greening apple is often considered the quintessential American Apple Pie apple.

While the apple is tart when eaten raw, baking brings out the sweetness and savoriness of the apple. Unlike other apples that tend to puree and crumble when used in cooking, the Rhode Island Greening softens slightly but retains its shape.

Overhead view of green apple on plate.

Rhode Island Greening Apple Pairings

A good rule of thumb is that anything you can use the Granny Smith apple with, you can use the Rhode Island Greening apple. They’re best when you use them in baking, but they also make an excellent option to pair with caramel.

Cooking With This Apple

Cooking and baking are where the Rhode Island Greening apple comes into its own. The Rhode Island Greening is also a great option if you’re making apple cider. Here are a few other recipes that go great with the Rhode Island Greening.

Glass of apple cider or apple wine with yellow-green apples nearby.
Apple cider.

Health Benefits of Apples

Apples are notoriously packed with outstanding health benefits. Rhode Island Greening apples are rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and other healthy compounds to get your cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and fiber intake under control. Here are some of the other health benefits of apples.

Plate of chopped green apple.

How to Grow Your Own Rhode Island Greening Apples

If you’re looking to add the Rhode Island Greening apple to your home orchard, there are some essential things that you should be aware of. They’re are grown in much the same way that most other apple varieties are. However, let’s go over some specific details about growing this delightful variety.

Apple tree with yellow-green apples on it.

Size

Rhode Island Greening apple trees can grow anywhere from 12 to 20 feet tall and 12 to 17 feet wide. Most apple tree varieties max out at 15 feet, but the Rhode Island Greening is an exception.

Spacing

It’s a good idea to keep your trees 15 to 20 feet apart to make sure they have plenty of room to grow.

Pollination

While you can’t use the Rhode Island Greening apple to pollinate other varieties, it will benefit significantly from cross-pollination. Here are some of the best options for cross-pollination.

Apple blossoms.

Hardiness Zone

Rhode Island Greening apples are hardy and can survive in most parts of the country. However, it’s most adept to hardiness zones 5 through 7 because it loves cooler temperatures.

When To Plant

If you live in cooler climates with cold winters, you should plant your apple tree in the spring. If you live in warmer climates where the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing very often, you should plant it in the fall.

When to Harvest

Regardless of when you plant your Rhode Island Greening apple, it will take several years to grow and produce fruit. The best time to harvest these tasty delights is late October to early November.

Market display of green apples.

Rhode Island Greening Apple Tree Care

Taking care of your apple tree is paramount to its success. Minnetonka Orchards has a complete guide for apple tree care that you can visit and get all the information you need. Here are some specific care guide ideas for the Rhode Island Greening apple.

Cluster of yellow-green apples on tree.

Pests

Like all apple trees, there are several pests that you should be on the lookout for that will try to steal your fruit before you can enjoy it. Here is a guide to protecting your trees and fruits from nasty pests.

Diseases

The Rhode Island Greening apple is especially prone to cedar apple rust and fireblight. Here’s a complete guide to preventing diseases from ruining your apple tree.

Pruning

Diligently pruning your apple tree is essential to its successful growth. This is especially important for Smokehouse apple trees, which are more productive when pruned religiously.

Where To Buy The Rhode Island Greening Apple

You can purchase the apple seeds or trees online at Orange Pippin Trees. The apples themselves are still sold commercially and at farmers’ markets in the northeastern United States, including Maine, Rhode Island, and New York.

Conclusion

The Rhode Island Greening apple is one of the oldest varieties in the country. If you’re looking for a historical apple that’s still excellent for today, the Rhode Island Greening should be at the top of your list.

Do you grow Rhode Island Greening apples or do you have an amazing recipes for using them? Tell us about it in the comment section below! To read about other apple varieties, click here for our apple blog posts.