New Apple Variety Bred Specifically For Local Pick-Your-Own Orchards

We are in luck, a fresh apple experience is coming our way. University of Maryland has released the first apple variety developed for the mid-Atlantic region called Antietam Blush. Six more varieties will follow, all adapted to the area’s summer heat and humidity, with increased drought and disease resistance. Antietam Blush is the first apple variety bred specifically for this area.  The trees are shorter, thus eliminating the need for ladders, and designed to be picked in October (good for pick your own orchards). The stronger tree architecture makes it easier and less labor intensive to maintain plus this variety is bred to be resistant to the fire blight bacterial disease.  Because the trees are smaller, they can be planted closer together without support, which means more apples can be produced. The apple is blush red, sweet and slightly tart, with a high sugar/high acid fruit content that stores well. Dr. Christopher Walsh, Professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland, says that Antietam Blush combines the tartness of its parent, Cripps Pink, with the champagne fizz of its grandparent, Gala.

Dr. Walsh and then-graduate assistant Julia Harshman worked on this new kind of apple tree for nearly 30 years. When they started the main university apple breeding programs were at Cornell University, Washington State University, and the University of Minnesota. No one had bred an apple specifically for the mid-Atlantic region.  They recognized the need for an apple tree that would tolerate the hot, humid summer climate. Over time they bred trees to combine a heat tolerant fruit with a tree architecture that reduced the need for hand pruning and ladders. Dr. Walsh received the University’s first ever apple patent for Antietam Blush. Currently, several Maryland growers are growing Antietam Blush, which will be available to the local markets very soon. Check out the University of Maryland’s short video about Antietam Blush.

All photos by Edwin Remsberg, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland

2 responses to “New Apple Variety Bred Specifically For Local Pick-Your-Own Orchards

  1. With so many apple cultivars to choose from, another one seems to be redundant. We have some of the old varieties that were already quite old when the orchard was planted nearly a century ago. I know that there are better cultivars for home gardens, but I like what is already there, even if they are big standard (orchard) trees. In Beverly Hills (in Los Angles County), winter weather is too mild for apples. The cultivar that was developed specifically for the lack of chill there happens to be named ‘Beverly Hills’. There are only a few others that are productive there, although ‘Beverly Hills’ seems to be the most reliable. I do not think that any of them are as good as those that grow where winters are cooler. There are no more apple orchards there anymore anyway, and most of us simply do not bother to grow apples in our home gardens. There are plenty of other fruits to grow. (Besides, for me, the last thing I need is more apples!)

  2. Writing as a fellow DC area gardener, *I’m* interested in Antietam Blush if only because I’m tired of the smuts, worms and other pests enjoying my apples over me. 😉

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