Apples to Apples – Choices are many
Apples are one of the most commonly grown fruits in North Dakota. There are many choices available that give a range of ripening as well as well as best uses for the apples.
Hazen is a North Dakota release. Hazen is a naturally smaller apple tree growing to 12 to 15 feet in height. It matures early, usually the first or second week of August. It is good for cooking and canning, but only fair for fresh eating as it gets mealy textured very early. Not a good keeping variety but the flavor is good
Haralson and its red sport, Haralred, are two older varieties. Haralson is a later apple maturing in October while Haralred will mature in late September. Both are moderately resistant to fire blight. The apples are crisp and juicy and are tart until after one or two good frosts. They sweeten up nicely after frosts. Both store well and are excellent for fresh eating, cooking, canning and juice.
Honeycrisp is a Minnesota release that is highly favored for its eating quality. However, it is marginally winter hardy in our area. It is also very susceptible to sun scald on the trunk and subsequent disease and early death.
Wodarz is an heirloom apple developed in North Dakota by R.L. Wodarz of rural Richland County. It was jointly released by the R.L. Wodarz family and North Dakota Agricultural College in the early 1900s. It is a very hardy apple maturing in early October. Its eating quality is excellent. I personally rank it equal to Honeycrisp in eating quality and is a better choice as it does not have the hardiness problems.
Chestnut crab is not a traditional crabapple variety. It is actually a small apple. It is the ideal size for snacking and lunches for young children. Eating quality is excellent. This variety is very hardy and quite trouble free. We like this one for fresh eating as much as Wodarz at our home.
There are many other good varieties available. State Fair, Goodland, Sweet Sixteen and Duchess are all good varieties adapted to our area. An heirloom variety developed at the Morden Research Center in Manitoba is Redant. It is a very large, crisp, sweet apple. I recommend it if you can find it. Redant, Chestnut and Wodarz are our favorite apples out of the 13 varieties we have.
Apples are quite easy to grow. Since rapid growth encourages the disease fire blight, apple trees should not be fertilized. This helps to prevent the disease. They are long lived with a simple maintenance pruning program in late fall or early spring. If you have the room in your yard, try one. I think you will enjoy the added benefit an apple tree will bring to your landscape.
Ken Eraas is horticulture assistant with NDSU Extension Service/Ward County. He can be reached at email@example.com.