Have you ever heard of the Winesap apple? This well known heirloom apple was once very popular but hasn’t been as common in the last 75 years so not everyone knows about it. It’s an old variety that dates back to colonial times. It was popular in days of old partly because of it’s long shelf wear. When America was young, the colonists likely enjoyed these apples in the fall and all winter long. It has a unique flavor that is delicious for both cooking and eating raw.
Keep reading to learn all about this yummy apple, including ways to use it and how to grow your own!
History of the Winesap Apple
The exact origins of the Winesap Apple are unknown but it probably dates back to the 18th century. The first known mention of this apple was in New Jersey in 1804. It was widely produced commercially in Virginia in the 19th century but became less popular in the 20th century around the 1950’s when other varieties such as the Red Delicious took over demand.
Like other winter apples, the Winesap’s long shelf life is part of what made this such a popular apple before refrigerators were common. Once more people had fridges in their homes, other less shelf stable apples were easier to keep and increased in popularity.
Characteristics of The Winesap Apple Tree
Winesap apple trees grow to around 10-25 feet tall. In the spring they have beautiful red apple blossoms. In the summer the fruit develops into small to medium sized apples with thick, glossy, cherry red skin.
The apple is very firm, juicy, and crisp with a tangy flavor. The skin tends to be tough and somewhat chewy, so many people like to peel these apples before eating them. The fruit keeps very well — fresh picked apples can last for up to 6 months.
What Do They Taste Like?
Winesap apples have a deep, rich, wine-like flavor, which is where they get their name. They are full of complex flavors, much like wine. They can be tangy, sometimes a little sour, and subtly sweet.
What Do They Go With?
These apples are very versatile. They pair especially well with wine and cheese and are good anywhere you usually like to use apples like on fresh salads or in apple butter on biscuits. They are yummy in recipes with other traditional fall flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon, and taste delicious in trail mix when dried.
How To Use Them In Cooking
There are lots of great options when it comes to cooking Winesap apples. They break down pretty easily so they work well for things like applesauce. They can also hold their shape when cooked so you can still use them for pies and other baked goods. In fact, baking apple pies is one of the most popular uses of Winesap apples. The deep, tangy flavor is perfect for baking and adds excellent flavor.
The rich Winesap apple flavor also adds depth to apple cider and other juices.
These are excellent apples for snacking. Try dipping sliced apples in almond butter or peanut butter for a balanced snack. The fiber from the apples plus the fat and protein in the nut butter will keep you full and satisfied for hours.
Apples are a delicious and nutritious treat for kids. Many kids love apples in all sorts of forms. Have your kids help you make applesauce or serve apple slices with cheese for a healthy and delicious snack.
Do you hesitate packing sliced apples in your kids lunch because they don’t like when they turn brown? Here’s a tip for you. Squeeze a sprinkle of fresh lime juice over the apples and they’ll look bright and fresh for hours!
Health Benefits of Winesap Apples
Have you ever heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Apples are an underrated powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. Winesap apples are a good source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, Vitamin K, iron, calcium, and potassium. These nutrients work to strengthen your immune system, maintain healthy organ function, and much more.
In addition to all that, all apples are a good source of fiber which helps improve digestion.
Growing At Home
The Winesap apple is easy to grow and produces well (sometimes even in poor soil) so it’s a great choice for home gardeners. If the tree you buy is old enough, it’s even possible to get fruit the first year! You’ll love having fresh apples in the fall.
Winesap apples grow well in zones 5-8. It’s a southern apple but it does well in northern areas as well. For a complete guide to apple tree care, click here.
Winesap apple trees are a triploid variety. That means they need two other varieties of apple trees to pollinate them, and they do not work for pollinating other apple varieties. If you’re growing Winesap apples you need to have at least 3 different apple trees (including the Winesap apple tree) near each other to successfully grow them.
Pests and Disease
Dealing with pests and disease is an unwelcome, but common, experience for gardeners. It’s helpful to be proactive and try to prevent pests and disease rather than fight them off later. Aphids, Japanese beetles, and several types of moths are common apple tree pests.
The time most gardeners start having trouble with pests is in late spring to early summer. Check on your plants often during this time so you can quickly identify and deal with problems before they get out of hand.
Some common diseases you might see on your Winesap apple tree are Cedar Apple Rust, Fire blight, and Bitter Rot. Keeping the area around your apple trees clean along with proper spacing and pruning can help prevent diseases from afflicting your apple trees. For more information on common apple tree diseases here’s an article for you.
Careful pruning can help your Winesap apple tree thrive! In addition to helping keep diseases at bay by providing proper airflow, pruning also helps light reach all areas of the tree giving it enough energy to produce good fruit. Prune your tree in late winter or early spring before blossoms form. For more tips on pruning check out this article
When to Harvest
After attentively caring for your tree and watching those beautiful red apples grow all summer, it can be hard to wait for them to be ready. But they’ll be worth the wait! Winesap apples are ready to harvest starting in September. You’ll know they’re ready when they twist off the tree easily. If they don’t pull off easily, let them stay on a little longer.
Where to get Winesap Apple Trees
Check with your local nursery or garden center for young Winesap apple trees. You can also order young trees online from a number of online retailers (like Nature Hills Nursery). These are popular trees, so you won’t have a hard time finding one for your garden!
Where To Buy Winesap Apples
Ready to get your hands on some Winesap apples? Check with your local orchards and farmer’s markets for fresh Winesap apples from September-November. This variety isn’t widely produced commercially so you may not be apple to find them at the grocery store, but plenty of orchards still grow this yummy apple.
If you can’t find any nearby, Honeycrisp.com has Winesap apples available to order online.
Wrapping up the Winesap Apple
While it hasn’t been as popular in the last 75 years or so, this is still a yummy apple that has a lot of great qualities. If you enjoy rich, tangy flavors that aren’t as sweet, you may just love the Winesap apple!
Do you have any experience growing Winesap apples? What’s your favorite way to eat Winesap apples? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below! To read about other apple varieties, click here for our apple blog posts.