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The Sheep’s Nose Apple

Sheep’s Nose Apple, an heirloom variety of apples, has been cherished for centuries for its unique appearance and versatile uses. This article delves into the history, characteristics, cultivation, uses, and ongoing resurgence of interest in this fascinating apple variety.

So, let’s take a journey together and learn all about the Sheep’s Nose Apple.

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sheep's nose apple on a tree

The Origin of Sheep’s Nose Apple

Early American Apples

The Sheep’s Nose Apple, also known as Black Gilliflower or Red Gilliflower, is an old American apple variety that dates back to the early 18th century. It’s believed to have originated in Connecticut, where it was widely grown and appreciated for its distinct characteristics.

How Sheep’s Nose Apple Got Its Name

This apple variety has an unusual, elongated shape that resembles a sheep’s nose, hence its name. The alternative names, Black and Red Gilliflower, are derived from the apple’s fragrance, which is reminiscent of cloves, also known as gillyflowers.

Characteristics of Sheep’s Nose Apple

Apples in bushel baskets.

Physical Appearance

This Apple is medium to large in size, with a unique conical shape tapering towards the end. Its skin is dark red or purple, and its flesh is a creamy white with a fine-grained texture.

Taste and Flavor Profile

Sheep’s Nose Apples have a sweet and mildly spicy flavor with a hint of cinnamon and cloves. They are firm, moderately juicy, and have a slightly dry texture, making them versatile apples for various culinary applications.

Storage and Shelf Life

Due to their firm texture, Sheep’s Nose Apples store well and can last for several months when properly stored in a cool, dry place.

Uses of Sheep’s Nose Apples

Culinary Uses

Sheep’s Nose Apples are excellent for cooking, as they hold their shape well when baked or cooked. They are commonly used in pies, crisps, and applesauce, and their sweet, spicy flavor adds depth to various dishes.

Cider Making

The unique flavor profile of this apple makes them ideal for cider making. They can be blended with other apple varieties to create a complex, balanced cider that showcases their distinct characteristics.

Health Benefits

Like all apples, Sheep’s Nose Apples are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Incorporating them into your diet can help support a healthy immune system, improve digestion, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Growing Sheep’s Nose Apples

Climate and Soil Requirements

Sheep’s Nose Apple trees thrive in well-draining, fertile soil and require a temperate climate with cold winters to ensure successful fruit production. They are hardy and can withstand colder temperatures, making them suitable for growing in USDA zones 4 to 8.

Pollination and Grafting

These trees are not self-pollinating, so they require cross-pollination from a different apple variety to bear fruit. Grafting onto a suitable rootstock is essential to control the tree’s size and improve its resistance to pests and diseases.

Pests and Diseases

Like other apple varieties, this apple can be affected by common pests and diseases such as apple scab, powdery mildew, and fire blight. Regular pruning and monitoring for signs of infestation or infection can help manage these issues and maintain a healthy, productive tree.

Reviving Interest in Heritage Apples

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in preserving and cultivating heirloom apple varieties like the Sheep’s Nose Apple.

This resurgence is driven by the desire to conserve genetic diversity, promote sustainable agriculture, and rediscover these time-honored fruits’ unique flavors and characteristics.


What is the Sheep’s Nose Apple?

The Sheep’s Nose Apple is an heirloom apple variety originating in the early 18th century in Connecticut. It has a unique, elongated shape resembling a sheep’s nose and a sweet, mildly spicy flavor.

How do you grow Sheep’s Nose Apples?

For successful fruit production, these apples require well-draining, fertile soil and a temperate climate with cold winters. They need cross-pollination from a different apple variety and grafting onto a suitable rootstock.

What are the uses of Sheep’s Nose Apples?

These apples are ideal for cooking and baking, as they hold their shape well. They are also excellent for cider making and provide various health benefits due to their fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidant content.

Why is there a renewed interest in heritage apples like the Sheep’s Nose?

The resurgence of interest in heirloom apples is driven by the desire to preserve genetic diversity, promote sustainable agriculture, and rediscover these time-honored fruits’ unique flavors and characteristics.

How long do Sheep’s Nose Apples last in storage?

These apples have a firm texture and can last for several months when properly stored in a cool, dry place.

Wrapping Up the Sheep’s Nose Apple

The Sheep’s Nose Apple is a captivating heirloom variety that boasts a rich history, distinctive appearance, and versatile uses. Its unique characteristics make it well worth preserving and enjoying in our modern times.

By cultivating and appreciating heirloom apples like the Sheep’s Nose, we can ensure the survival of these treasured fruits for future generations to savor and appreciate.

Do you want to know more about apples? Visit the Apple Trees page on our website, where you’ll find tons of apple variety blog posts, plus helpful apple tree growing and care guides.