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Our Favorite Apple Varieties for Hot Climates and the Tropics

It's almost like having to choose between your children, but we had to narrow it down to help people decide.  These are apple varieties that have been tested in a hot and humid climate and are very suitable for hot climates and the tropics.  The qualities we look for are apples that stay crisp and juicy during high heat, color up well despite hot nights, have some disease resistance, have a very low chilling-hour requirement, and keep well without refrigeration.

Some of these apples are old-time apples from the Deep South, and others are traditional favorites for the tropics that have been grown there for years.  Still others are cold-climate apples that have shown remarkable adaptability to tropic conditions.  All of them are better than anything you have tasted in the market and will be a definite improvement over what is commonly grown in the tropics.

We could have easily added twenty more varieties to this list.  Remember; it only takes one good apple that performs well in an area to build an entire industry around; many fortunes have been tied to an apple variety that markets well or can be grown best only in a certain area.  We recommend that you try a wide variety to see what does best in your particular location.  We have an additional list here.


Anna Israel, 1959  Bred at Kibbutz Ein Shemer in Doar Na Shomron by Abba Stein as a cross between the local cultivars Red Hadassiya (a plum-sized apple) and Golden Delicious.  Considered the standard in low-chilling apples, Anna is Israel's gift to the world as it feeds half the tropical world.  The showy blossoms burst fourth in late January and every blossom sets an apple (thin heavily).  Aggressive thinners will be rewarded with humongous, beautiful apples blushed red and yellow.  Anna must be pollinated with Dorsett Golden or Shell of Alabama to get this size.  The flesh is white, crisp, sweet, juicy, with a hint of zing; it makes excellent apple pies.  It is the first apple to be grown by tropic orchardists, but you should only plant no more than 20% of your orchard with it and concentrate on more profitable varieties below as shown by this page.

Arkcharm Arkansas, recent  Developed by the University of Arkansas (a very hot and humid part of the USA), Arkcharm keeps its quality and colors up well despite high heat.  It ripens earlier in the season and has a good sugar/acid balance and complex flavor.  It has good disease resistance but does not keep very long and should be eaten right away; it would be good for processing into juice or dried apples if marketing takes more than a few days.

Aunt Rachel North Carolina, USA Originated as local apple in Chatham County , North Carolina . Fruit begins ripening early in the season and continues for two to three weeks. One of the best early season apples, Aunt Rachel is a medium to large, red-striped apple covered with prominent light dots. Very attractive with very fine flavor. No catalog listing or background was ever found, and so this may be a very rare seedling apple grown only in a small part of the American South (until now).

Bramley England, 1800  Bramley is the national cooking apple of England and many will find it odd for it to be on this list, but it has proven to be very reliable in a tropic climate.  It is very vigorous (the original 200-year-old tree is still growing and bearing apples in Nottingham) and annual bearing.  It is quite tart until completely ripe and makes an applesauce that will about blow your head off with an intense flavor.  For an apple from such a cool climate it sure is not bothered by the heat any, tolerating 45 C. with no problems. 

Dixie Red Delight Alabama, 1960ís  A sport of Red Delight of the early 1900's, Dixie Red Delight was developed by an amateur horticulturist, Oren T. Bolding, of Sylacauga, Alabama. Fruit is medium to large, with red skin and yellow ground color. Flavor is sharp, sweet, aromatic, and  spicy, and improves in storage; the closest thing to Virginia Winesap we've tasted in a hot climate. Keeps well and improves in storage, bears heavily and reliably, ripens late in the season and blooms late.

Dorset Golden Bahamas, 1954  Bred by Mrs. I. Dorsett in Nassau as a chance seedling of Golden Delicious.  The best pollinator for Anna and an excellent apple in it's own right, as it will grow anywhere and produces the year after planting. Like Anna it can be coaxed to bear two crops per year. Crunchy, juicy, sweet-tart with classic apple flavor. Good fresh, in pies, and for cider. They start to fall off the tree when ripe, and the flavor is best when just a little green still.  Thin hard to obtain huge apples.  When pollinated correctly with Anna the apples have a distinct "blockish" shape.  They bruise easily. It is the first apple to be grown by tropic orchardists, but you should only plant no more than 20% of your orchard with it and concentrate on more profitable varieties below as shown by this page.

Dula's Beauty North Carolina, USA late 1800's Originated from seeds of a Limbertwig planted by J. A. Dula of Lenoir, North Carolina.  It is a strong, vigorous tree well adapted to all growing conditions. In 1908, the NC Dept. of Agriculture recommended this variety for lowland coastal growers (a very warm climate). Fruit is large and slightly conical with dark-red skin overlaid with darker red stripes. Flesh is yellowish-white, tender, crisp and juicy. Ripens late fall to early winter.

Empire New York, USA, 1945  Developed at Cornell University, Empire is a cross between Red Delicious and Macintosh.  Empire brings the famous Macintosh flavor to hotter climates, growing well in heat and humidity.   The tree is strong and well-shaped, and bears reliably every year.  The apples have a nice spicy sweet-tart flavor, and although they do not bruise easily, should be eaten or processed right away as they do not keep long.

Fuji Japan, 1962  Despite its commercial success, few people have tasted Fuji as it was meant to be, which is sweet, flavorful, crunchy, and ridiculously juicy.  This is because it requires a long, hot season to pump the full quota of sugar and flavor into the orangish yellow flesh.  Just because the skin has colored up doesn't mean it is ripe, although the skin never does really color up well.  Fuji takes about 5 years to start producing, but reliably sets a full crop every year after that; thin hard and you'll get huge apples.  Ripens late and  keeps extremely well, self-fertile.  A mandatory apple for all areas; it is that good.

Granny Smith Australia, 1868  Sprouted from a washtub of French crab apple trimmings tossed out by an actual granny, Maria Anne Smith of the Ryde District of New South Wales, Australia.  You may be surprised if you're expecting the homogenous, lime-green coloring like in the market, as when ripe Granny Smith has a pinkish-orange blush on the sunny side.   It needs a long, hot season to attain the best flavor, and makes excellent pies.  The tree requires very little care.

King David  Arkansas, 1893 This turned out to be one of our favorite apples, and for good reason; it was Stark Bros. Nursery's biggest producer for years and considered tops in flavor in warm climates, proving itself very adaptable.  The apples are very hard until ripe and are somewhat insect-resistant.  It turns deep purple, almost black and hangs late on the tree and should be picked when full color develops. Yellow flesh, firm, crisp and juicy with a deep, dark, rich winey flavor that matches the color, a favorite with most people who try it.

Lady Williams Australia, 1935  A Granny Smith offspring that is also a parent of Pink Lady. A pinkish-red apple with a distinctive horizontal white stripe on one side that ripens very late and needs a long hot season, usually ripening two months later than most other apples. It is quite tart until fully ripe, when it developed a nice sweet/tart balance.  So far it has out-produced its offspring Cripp's Pink (aka Pink Lady) and is grown in the jungles of Malaysia with good success.

Mollie's Delicious New York, 1966  Unrelated to the accursed Red Delicious, Mollie's Delicious is an excellent apple for hot climates, a cross between Golden Delicious and Red Gravenstein. Sweet, firm, crisp, and aromatic but with not much acid. Has a beautiful red blush over yellow. Pollinator required: Fuji, or Granny Smith; ripens mid-season, stays crisp in the heat, keeps rather well, supposedly improves after a month in storage.

Red Rebel Virginia, USA 1850  This beautiful apple originated in Rappahannock, Virginia on the farm of Captain Charles B. Wood. It was once described in old nursery catalogs as "the prettiest apple that grows." Despite its attractiveness and fine flavor, the apple never gained a following in the American South and was thought to be lost until apple hunter Joyce Neighbors of Gadsden, Alabama, found an old tree growing in nearby Wedowee which had been planted in the 1930's. Thanks to her efforts, this wonderful old apple is once again available. The apple is medium to large with deep dark red skin over a light yellow background. The yellowish flesh is crisp with a fine sweet-tart flavor. Ripens late season.

Reverend Morgan Texas, 1965  A local family heirloom of the Deep South, originating in Houston, Texas, an area known more for cattle, rice, and sugar cane than apples. The apple was first raised by Reverend Herman T. Morgan in 1965 from seeds of Granny Smith and produced its first fruit in 1972. It is well adapted to tropic conditions and does well wherever it's tried. Fruit is medium to large, roundish-conical with rich pinkish-red skin. A fine quality apple that ripens in late in the season.

Shell of Alabama  Alabama,  late 1800ís  Originating in the USA southern state of Alabama, this was developed by Mr. Green Shell (born 1841). Mr. Shell had an apple orchard in the warm climate of Escambia County, and developed an industry around this apple, shipping boxcars of crisp, somewhat tart, green apples north in July before other apples were ripe. We're recommending it as a companion to Anna and Dorsett Golden, as it blossoms and ripens with them and is their equal in vigor and much superior to the detestable Ein Shemer, a terrible apple which used to be though of as a pollinator for Anna.

Sierra Beauty California, USA, 1890  A byproduct of the California gold-rush era, Sierra Beauty was discovered as a seedling high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Offered by nurseries for a few years, it became extinct except as an heirloom of the Gowan Family of Philo (Mendocino County) until "rediscovered" around 1980. Tends toward biannual bearing, so thin heavily for more consistent crops.  A beautiful apple with striking appearance,  firm texture, and is very tart until fully ripe when it has an intense sweet-tart flavor that begs for another bite. Ripens late in the season.

Terry Winter Georgia, USA, 1850ís  An excellent old southern apple noted for its long-keeping abilities for warm winter areas. It originated before the American Civil War with a Mr. Terry of Fulton County, Georgia, and was soon widely sold throughout Georgia and neighboring states. Medium-sized fruit with thick, tough yellow skin covered with stripes and splashes of red and crimson. The white flesh is crisp, sweet/tart and juicy. This is one of the most prolific varieties we have, setting a huge crop the second year.  Make sure to thin heavily for the best quality.  Ripens late in the season over a long period.

Tompkins County King  New York, 1804  A large apple with a yellow skin is flushed a pale-red with darker red stripes and white or russet dots. The yellow flesh is coarse, crisp, and tender, with a sweet/tart and aromatic flavor. Vigorous and spreading, the tree grows naturally small. The limbs grow nearly horizontal with many crossing branches. A pollen sterile triploid, it will not pollinate other trees or itself. it has a tendency to watercore, where the flesh becomes translucent and very sweet.  Ripens very late in the season; hangs on the tree until it's past its prime, so keep an eye on it. 

Wickson Crabapple- A big taste in an itty-bitty package.  People think it is cute until they bite into it, and then find out that this little apple has a big-apple flavor.  It has a crisp white flesh with a clean, powerful sweet-tart taste.  The tree is prolific and has showy white blossoms.  Purported to make killer cider, but we enjoyed it for fresh eating.  We've tried this in different parts of the country, and ours are by far the best we've tasted.  Outstanding.

Williams' Pride Indiana, 1985  A product of the Purdue, Rutgers, and University of Illinois (PRI) breeding program of disease-resistant apples, Williams' Pride is field immune to scab and cedar apple rust and highly resistant to fireblight, moderately resistant to powdery mildew. Despite very warm nights it still develops a deep red color, approaching purple.  It ripens in hot weather and is amazing for the quality the golden yellow, crisp, juicy, spicy flesh attains, keeping quite well for a early-season apple It bears early and heavily even on vigorous rootstocks. The tree has a good growth habit with wide branch angles and lots of spurs to bear heavily. 

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