If you are looking to grow one of America’s most popular apples in your own garden, and give your family fresh, tree-ripened home-grown fruit, then look no further than the Empire Apple. The crunchy flesh is both juicy and sweet, with a rich flavor, all packaged in a beautiful red-skinned apple. This apple is popular both for its great flavor and for its versatility. It is perfect for eating fresh, and it also works well in the kitchen, cooking into delicious pies, muffins, or whatever you like to bake.
The flavor is very like the unique taste of the McIntosh Apple, which is one of the parents of the Empire Apple. If you like that taste, which many people describe as like melon or pineapple, but live too far south to grow McIntosh (which does well only in cold states), then grow the Empire Apple instead.
Growing Empire Apple Trees
Children really love the Empire Apple. Its beautiful deep, maroon-red color on a light green background, simply says ‘eat me’, and it is the perfect lunch-box apple. Why? Because it has the pretty unique property of not quickly browning from minor scratches or bruises, so when it inevitably gets thrown around a bit in taking it to school, the flesh will still be fresh and white, not brown and ‘icky’ to fussy children.
Imagine the fun of stepping outside in the first months of the new school year – September and October – and picking an apple straight from the tree to take to school. That is when your Empire Apple Tree will be heavy with big, juicy apples. The flesh is crisp, but soft enough for young teeth to bite into easily.
Uses in the Kitchen
The Empire Apple also cooks beautifully – better than McIntosh – and it holds it shape well. Cooking brings out the unique flavor, and it certainly adds a special something to all your baking or salads. As well, this apple can be stored right into January, and it only improves in flavor as it stores. You can store your apples in the refrigerator, or in a cool cellar or garage. The ideal environment is just above freezing, and humid.
Harvesting and Storing Your Apples
Harvest your apples carefully, as if you were handling eggs, and pick out the perfect ones for long-term storage. Use up the slightly damaged ones first. Wrap each apple individually in newspaper or Kraft paper, and lay out in a single layer on a shelf or rack. Alternatively, for baking you can prepare them to the slice stage, and then freeze the slices on trays and store in freezer bags. Whatever method you use, you will be enjoying your own apples for months.
Planting and Initial Care
The Empire Apple grows best in cold to warm states, from zone 4 to zone 7. For hot states choose something different, like the Anna Apple or the Ein Shemer Apple. Plant in full sun, in well-drained soil, and mulch each spring with rich compost or manure. Cover the root zone but keep the compost off the trunk. Water young trees regularly, but once established trees will only need watering during dry spells. This apple is resistant to the killer apple disease of Fireblight and to Cedar Apple Rust, but it can be affected by the minor disease of Apple Scab. This only causes some leaf drop, and some superficial rough patches on the outside of the apples, but it doesn’t affect the quality at all.
When planting your apple, be careful to plant it with the ‘kink’ you can see in the stem above the ground. This is the graft union – the point where the piece of Empire Apple was attached to a special root system. Anything that grows from below this point should be removed cleanly. Start pruning from an early age, creating a trunk up to 5 feet tall, with radiating branches at low angles. Keep the center open to let the sun in to ripen the fruit, and trim long branches from the previous year back by one-third to one-half.
You may need to thin the fruit in summer, to make sure you get full-sized apples. When the fruits are about the size of a quarter remove all but one fruit from each cluster and remove extra apples until there is about 4 inches between each one. You will have fewer apples, but they will be bigger and better, not small and mostly core.
History and Origins of the Empire Apple Tree
The Empire Apple is the result of a careful breeding program carried out at Cornell University, in Geneva, New York. Starting in 1945, Dr. A. J. Heinicke and Lester Anderson collected bushels of apples from Anderson’s orchards, where only McIntosh and Red Delicious apple trees were growing. They extracted the seed from the apples, sprouted them, and in 1947 planted 2,000 seedlings at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, which is part of the University.
In 1954 a smaller group of the best was selected, and then, after 12 more years of testing, Roger Way selected ‘N.Y. 45500-5’ as the very best. It was released under license with the name ‘Empire’. Since then it has been grown extensively commercially, chiefly in New York State, and has been hugely popular with apple eaters since the day it was released. It is self-fertile, but it will carry a heavier crop if grown near another variety. The Red Delicious Apple is an excellent mutual pollinator, and both will crop more heavily when grown together.
To produce our Empire Apples, stem pieces of the tree are attached to specially-produced root systems of trees developed to give the best growth, and to control the size to cause earlier fruiting. This top-quality apple is the perfect choice if you want a single tree to give you eating and cooking apples for 5 months of the year, picked from a tough, easy to grow tree. This tree is always very popular, so order now while our stocks hold out.