What Makes New England Apples Special?

McIntosh, Foppema’s Farm, Whitinsville, Massachusetts, are a New England staple for their distinctive sweet-tart taste. (Russell Steven Powell)

MOST OF NEW ENGLAND’S FRESH-GROWN APPLES are consumed right here where they are grown. That means consumers get the freshest fruit possible.

Apples travel better than most fruits, but like any produce, they always taste best closest to home. Growers in other regions wish they could replicate McIntosh’s iconic flavor, a product of New England’s cool nights and rocky soils. Honeycrisp grown elsewhere is a good apple; a New England-grown Honeycrisp is sublime.

New England orchards grow some of the best Honeycrisp anywhere, like these at Clearview Farm, Sterling, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)

Even widely grown varieties like Gala are a little juicier and sweeter closest to where they are grown.

THE BIGGER BENEFIT of locally grown apples is that, because they do not have to be built for long-distance travel, growers can cultivate a wide range of varieties that greatly expand our experience of this remarkable fruit. New England orchards produce apples in an incredible array of colors, textures, and, most of all, flavors, compared to the handful of varieties shipped here from other states and countries. 

More than 200 varieties are photographed and described using the Apples tab on the home page of newenglandapples.org alone! 

New England’s relatively small land area, combined with its unique geography and dense population, gives consumers unprecedented access to its apples, from the produce aisles of our supermarkets to farm stands to the orchards themselves, where the fruit is grown. You can even harvest your own fruit or meet the grower in many cases!

Picking apples in the fall is a New England tradition at orchards like Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)
Paula Red apples, Rogers Orchards Sunnymount and Rogers Orchards Shuttle Meadow, Southington, Connecticut, have a hint of strawberry flavor. (Russell Steven Powell)

Consult our Orchard Finder for a list of some of New England’s finest orchards. In addition to apples, many offer a range of fruits and vegetables, and some have bakeries or restaurants, plus some of the most spectacular scenery New England has to offer.

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THIS WEEKEND marks a transition from early to mid-season apples. We will have examples of both at the New England Apples booth in the Massachusetts Building at the 17-day Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”), which opens Friday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The booth features fresh apple cider from Carlson Orchards, Harvard, Massachusetts, and smoothies, slushies, and hot cider to quench every thirst. We will have single-serving apple pies, apple pie squares (new this year), and cider donuts every day, and apple crisp on weekends.

We will have our new 2022 New England Apples wall calendar for sale, and it is a beauty!

But most of all we will have plenty of fresh apples, as many as 15 varieties over the course of the fair, including eight this weekend:

AKANE, Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts; CORTLAND, Pine Hill Orchards, Colrain, Massachusetts; ROYAL GALA, Carlson Orchards, Harvard, Massachusetts, and GALA, Pine Hill Orchards; GINGER GOLD, Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts; HONEYCRISP, Pine Hill Orchards and Red Apple Farm; McINTOSH, Pine Hill Orchards and Red Apple Farm; PAULA RED, Red Apple Farm; and RED GRAVENSTEIN, Red Apple Farm.

Akane is juicy with a pleasing sweet-tart taste. Like many early season varieties, it will only be around for a few more weeks. (Bar Lois Weeks)

Click on the highlighted apple or orchard name for more information

Cortland, with its large size and beautiful stripes, is equally good eaten fresh or cooked. (Bar Lois Weeks)
Galas harvested locally are a little sweeter and juicier than their non-native counterparts. (Bar Lois Weeks)
Ginger Gold is as delicious to eat as it is beautiful to behold. (Bar Lois Weeks)
Paula Red has prominent lenticels, or pores, and a Mac-like taste. (Bar Lois Weeks)
McIntosh’s famous fragrance and flavor is enhanced by New England’s cool nights and rocky soils. (Bar Lois Weeks)
A mostly sweet apple, New England Honeycrisp has an exceptionally explosive crunch. (Bar Lois Weeks)
The heirloom Red Gravenstein is prized for its juicy flavor, with a hint of lemon. (Bar Lois Weeks)
It’s never too early to begin apple picking, Brookfield Orchards, North Brookfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)

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IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE that many New England orchards include “hill” in their names. Unlike field crops such as potatoes or spinach, the tall, deep-rooted apple trees excel on sunny slopes, providing visitors with a double benefit: the freshest fruit available, and some of the best views around.

If you are planning a trip to the Big E this weekend, stop by for a taste of New England!

If not, there’s no better time to visit an orchard, and the weather looks ideal for picking.

Pine Hill Orchards, Pine Hill Orchard, Colrain, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)
Blue Hills Orchard, Wallingford, Connecticut. (Russell Steven Powell)
Visitors to Wellwood Orchards, Wethersfield, Vermont, get a panoramic view including Mount Ascutney. (Russell Steven Powell)
Pietree Orchard, Sweden, Maine. (Russell Steven Powell)
Apple Hill Farm, Concord, New Hampshire. (Russell Steven Powell)
March Farm, Bethlehem, Connecticut. (Russell Steven Powell)
Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)
Apple trees, like the fruit they bear, come in every size and shape at Pippin Orchard, Cranston, Rhode Island. (Russell Steven Powell)
Rogers Orchards Shuttle Meadow, Southington, Connecticut. (Russell Steven Powell)
Bolton Orchards-Davis Farm, Bolton, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)
Gould Hill Orchards, Contoocook, New Hampshire. (Russell Steven Powell)
Many orchards, like C.N. Smith Farm, East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, offer rides through the orchard. (Russell Steven Powell)
Apple Farm, Skowhegan, Maine. (Russell Steven Powell)
The orchard is transitioning to more densely planted dwarf and semi-dwarf trees supported by trellises, like these at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. The smaller trees are easier to pick and care for than the standard sizes. (Bar Lois Weeks)
Smolak Farms, North Andover, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)