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The York Imperial Apple

An antique apple. Yes, you heard right—sounds fancy, doesn’t it. The York Imperial Apple has been around for over 180 years, which is why it is classified as an antique—being one of the most commonly known apple varieties in the late 1800s to early 1900s. These apples were perfect since keeping food fresh after harvesting was quite the challenge during those times. See why you are going to love the York Imperial Apple and all of its history. 

Red apples on trees in orchard.

History of the York Imperial Apple

The York Imperial Apple was developed in the 1820s by Jonathon Jessop. The first York Imperial apple was developed in York, Pennsylvania, when Jessop received grafts from other apple trees and merged them with those he already cared for on his Springwood Farm. During the 1850s and onward, the York Imperial Apple was widely known and grown commercially and on local farms because of how they “kept,”; meaning they would be able to sit in barrels or stored away and still keep their delicious flavor (a classic trait of winter apples). After being harvested, the York Imperial keeps its crisp texture until early spring! These apples also adopted the name “Imperial Keepers.” 

A farm in York County, Pennsylvania.

Characteristics of the York Imperial Apple 

This funny lopsided apple is commonly known for its strange shape. The skin is a yellow to blush-reddish color with some green-yellow striping. The insides offer a crisp texture and a mild sugary-tart flavor profile within its lightly colored cream flesh. This medium to large-sized apple provides a firm and crisp texture and is perfect to use in many dishes. 

 A York Imperial apple on a cutting board against a white background.
The distinctive “lopsided” shape of a York Imperial apple.

Taste

Underneath the firm skin of the York Imperial Apple is a coarse flesh with a bit of a sweet and tangy taste. Because these apples keep for such a long time without losing their bite, they tend to become sweeter the longer they sit in storage, making them the perfect apple for baking. 

Red apples growing on a tree.

Cooking with the York Imperial Apple 

Because of their sweetness, the York Imperial is fantastic in all types of baked goods, jams, ciders, apple butter, and more! These apple pair amazingly well with vanilla and sugar. Turning these apples into a savory dish like an apple sauce for pork chops would be a great way to use them as well! 

Here are a few recipes the York Imperial Apple would pair well with: 

Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Rustic Apple Tart

4 Ingredient Apple Sauce

Apple Cider Pork Pot Roast

If you are looking for a snacking apple, the York Imperial apples are great raw. They are great apples for dips and caramels, offering a nice delicious crunch.

Overhead view of an apple tart made with different apple varieties.

Health Benefits 

Apples are one of the world’s most consumed fruits and offer massive health benefits to all who enjoy their tasty bite. Apples are high in nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants. To cash in on all of the vitamins, you need to leave the skins on; this is where most of its nutrients are. They also aid in weight loss. High in fiber and low in calories, it’s a great snack when trying to shed a few pounds. Apples also offer nutrients that can be linked to good heart health. 

Growing a York Imperial Apple Tree 

If you are looking to plant your very own York Imperial apple tree, there are a few things to note.

Where to Grow

These apples are known to do best in USDA zones 4-8. The further south, the harder they are to grow because of the elevation, so something to keep in mind if you want one of these in your backyard. 

An older couple caring for fruit trees in the garden.

Size and Spacing

When purchasing a York Imperial apple tree, you typically receive a young tree about two years old and approximately 4 to 5 feet tall. These semi-dwarf trees tend to grow over the years to around 6 to 20 feet tall. When you are planting, they need 15 to 20 feet of space from any other type of tree. 

Pollination

The York Imperial apple trees do need the help of a cross-pollinator to bear fruit. The Fuji or Golden Delicious is highly recommended for this purpose.  

Pests and Disease

When growing any fruit, they come with their risks of annoying pests and harmful diseases. Knowing what they are and eradicating them is essential for caring for an apple tree such as the York Imperial. When looking for guidance, check out our article on Apple Tree Diseases.

Harvesting the York Imperial Apple 

The York Imperial apple is ready to harvest late in October and even into early November. But remember, when you first plant a new apple tree, it can take some time to produce fruit. Wondering how long this may take? Being a semi-dwarf apple tree, it can take up to 4 years for fruit production. Need more information? Please read our article How Long Does it Take to Grow a Fruit Bearing Apple Tree.

Overhead view of apples in a basket and on the ground beside the basket.

Apple Tree Care

When looking into the care of your York Imperial apple tree, many factors come into play. We have an excellent comprehensive guide perfect for caring for all varieties of apple trees. 

Where to Buy the York Imperial Apple 

Tree

By now you probably want one of these fantastic apple trees in your backyard! Finding them can be a bit tricky. You won’t be seeing these in your local garden centers, but you can find them through different online retailers. 

Fruit

You won’t find these apples at your favorite grocery store. When buying York Imperial apples, the best places are farmstands around Pennsylvania. You may even find yourself enjoying an apple from Jessop’s very own trees. But if travel is out of the question for you, local specialty produce stores may be able to get some ordered.

Baskets of apples at a farmers market.

Wrapping Up the York Imperial Apple  

You are genuinely biting into a piece of history when enjoying a York Imperial apple. These lopsided red beauties have a tremendous flavor and can be kept for months after harvesting. Have you ever enjoyed a York Imperial apple? Do you have any of your own York Imperial apple trees? We would love to know in the comments below!

Are you looking for more apple varieties? Check out all of our apple blogs!