About Empire Apples
With the popular Red Delicious and McIntosh for parents, Empire apples were destined to be a hit after being developed at Cornell University in the 1940s by fruit nutritionist Lester C. Anderson. Given the shiny red characteristics of its parents, Empire apples are also maroon-red in color overlying a light green background. They are a member of the rose family (Rosaceae) along with pears and quince, although Empire apples are far less likely to develop fireblight, a disease common in the Rosaceae family.
The natural home of Empire apples is the northeastern United States – where McIntosh and other offspring, such as Cortland apples, are also most prevalent. Empire apples account for about 60% of the apple exports of New York State, but nationally account for only 2% of American apple production. However, that still puts Empire apples in the top 10 American apples given that they have all the qualities growers look for: easy maintenance, strong well-shaped trees, attractive apples, and heavy crops. However, they are highly susceptible to scab and powdery mildew and occasional cedar apple rust.
Empire apples feature a sweet-tart combination that’s very versatile. They’re plump and juicy, with very crisp, creamy white flesh and firm skin that crunches when you bite into it. It has the characteristics and flavor of McIntosh and has been described in apple textbooks as “vinous”. Some have even described Empire apples’ flavor as having a hint of melon or pineapple or elderflower.
Empire apples are excellent for snacking, often enjoyed right from the tree. While they do store for a few days, immediate consumption or use is best. They also make for a popular lunchbox snack for children given that they don’t bruise easily. Empire apples are quite popular in salads given their flavor but are also good for sauces, baking, pies, juices, and freezing. At Fulkerson, we use them to create a cold-pressed Empire Cider that’s both delicious and refreshing.