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Heirloom Apple Trees at The Coves

Apple Trees at The Coves

The Coves Heirloom Apple Trees by John Lemke & Bill Karr

The original pioneer settlers challenged these mountains and forests by making farms on our steep slopes. Like all the early pioneers of young America, subsistence farming and self reliance was the rule of life. They brought with them apples from the old country (Europe and the British Isles). Apple orchards were immediately planted for survival. Between 1750 and 1900 all people of these Western Mountain regions relied on their fruit orchards.

In the early 1900’s, roads improved and produce was made available even to the people of the Appalachian Mountains. Many local people moved to cities in search of better “cash jobs”. Slowly the mountain farms and their orchards began to be neglected. By 1900 there were possibly as many as 1,500 different apple varieties in the Southeastern US on family farms. These apples were described by the father of the Heirloom apple movement, Lee Calhoun and his wife, Edith, in their 1995 book “Old Southern Apples”. About half of these 1,500 apple varieties have been lost during the 1900s.

With a heart for history Doug Hundley and others at the Avery County Extension Office began locating the most important heirloom apples of AveryCounty. One result is the apple trees which are planted around the gazebo. This will help those of you who want to pass on to your children and their children the living history of their Mountain Culture.

Enjoy the Good Old Days

This book became an instant classic when it first appeared in 1995. Old Southern Apples is an indispensable reference for fruit lovers everywhere, especially those who live in the southern United States. Out of print for several years, this newly revised and expanded edition now features descriptions of some 1,800 apple varieties that either originated in the South or were widely grown there before 1928.

Old Southern Apples: A Comprehensive History and Description of Varieties for Collectors, Growers, and Fruit Enthusiasts, 2nd Edition



Ripens: June to July

AKA: Blush June, Georgia June, Knight’s Red June, Red Harvest, Jones June, Jones Early Harvest, Summer Red, Everbearing Red June, Red June, Red Juneating, Carolina Red, Improved Red June, Sheepnose Crab

Circa: Early 1800s in Tennessee.

This long-time Southern favorite has long been highly valued for its early ripening qualities. Unlike most early season varieties, which fail to develop a full balance of flavors in their short ripening period, Carolina Red June has a high quality flavor making it a first choice for pie making and fresh eating. A cute, small to medium apple, its beauty is exceptional for such an early apple. It was prized for its cooking quality as well. The fruit ripens over a period of several weeks. The tree is very productive and has an unusual habit of occasionally blooming twice in the same season, producing a second smaller crop of apples in the Fall.

Fruit is small to medium with smooth, dark red skin and is quite oblong or conical in appearance. The flesh is white, fine grained, tender, juicy, and briskly subacid. This apple has extraordinary flavor and sweetness for an early ripening apple.


Ripens: July

Circa: About 1750 in Massachusetts

This apple became known as an excellent apple  when grown in the South. This prized, early season apple is absolutely beautiful. Conical in shape and medium to large in size, its bright red apples catch the eye of friends and neighbors each July. The apples are of outstanding quality.

The apples are excellent for cooking and eating. The flesh is moderately firm, mostly white,juicy,and mildly subacid. This apple has extraordinary flavor and sweetness for a spring time apple. It tastes more like a mid-season apple variety.


Ripens: July through August

AKA: Summer Rambour, Rambour Franc
Circa: 16
th Century in France. This apple is one of the first grown in early America.

Summer Rambo is a 16th century French apple popular with American colonists. Rambour is a French name given to certain varieties of red apples of a large size. In the states it was originally referred to as Summer Rambour and Rambour Franc evolving to its current name by 1850’s. In France, where there are a dozen or more Rambour varieties, it is known as Rambour d’Ete. Rambour is thought to have originated in the village of Rambures in Picardy.

It was probably brought to American by the Virginia Tidewater Plantation owners who included such notables as Jefferson and Washington.

Summer Rambo is crisp, very juicy, yellow, breaking flesh. It is a great apple for early season eating out of hand. It is excellent for sauce and as it ripens further. Large red fruit, bright striped. Cold-hardy.


Ripens: September

AKA: Munson Sweet, Orange Sweet, Meacham Sweet, Orange, Northern Sweet, Rag Apple, Bramley Seedling

Circa: Before 1849 in Massachusetts

The quality of the fruit is such that people from our local community line up to get every last one of these apples every year. Vida Carpenter, a local resident in Avery County, says “her father had several Ray apple trees years ago and Bill’s is the only one left”. It is an extraordinary apple which to some degree fits the description of the Munson Sweet, which was sold by several southern nurseries at the turn of the century.

Fruit is medium to large, round oblate to oblate. The skin has beautiful streaks of orange, red, bronze and yellow. The flesh is yellowish, fine-grained, tender, moderately juicy and very sweet. It has excellent balance of acidity and sweet.


Ripens: September

AKA: Black Gilliflower, Red Gilliflower, Old Time Sheepnose, Crow Egg, Black Annie, Black Sheepnose

Circa: 18th Century in Connecticut

It’s most distinct feature is its shape – being very oblong and tapering down to a narrow point at the blossom end.

The fruit is medium to large, very conical; skin is dark, dull red and obscurely striped; flesh is greenish white, firm, rather course and moderately juicy, though becoming dry when overripe. This apple has a distinct banana aroma and highly desirable taste though not really very sweet. Cold-hardy. It is a prized apple for baking and desserts!


Ripens: September

AKA: Original Delicious variety, Hawkeye Circa: Before 1870 in Peru, Iowa

Hawkeye started as a small insignificant seedling in Jesse Hiatt’s Peru, Iowa orchard. The original Delicious, Hawkeye, was not welcomed at the time and was cut down several times because the seedling wasn’t growing in the row of Bellflower apple trees as desired. Nonetheless, Mr. Hiatt admired the tenacity of the seedling and gave it a chance to fruit. After many years he finally had an opportunity to sample the determined seedling. Taking out his pocket knife he carefully sliced into the only apple. In great excitement, Jesse told his wife, “Ma, this is the best apple in the whole world!” He never changed his mind. Hawkeye is the original Delicious, the one that earned the name.

This genuine original strain of the world’s most widely grown apple has never been improved on as far as eating quality. It is superior in flavor to all Red Delicious strains. Sweet, juicy and tender. The apple is medium to large with a clear, smooth, glossy yellow skin covered with red shading and striping, with fine grained crisp and juicy flesh. It is more flavorful than the Red Delicious. It keeps well through Christmas.


Ripens: September to November

AKA: Mother apple, Gardener’s apple, Queen Anne, American Mother Circa: From Massachusetts

This apple is well adapted to the south and very popular in Central North Carolina at the turn of the century. The apples are remembered as very sweet by local folks and are described in literature as ripens all at once, good for fresh eating and cooking but will become bland if left on the tree too long.

The skin is rather dull golden color nearly covered with red and deeper red stripes. Flesh is described as yellow, fine-grained, tender, juicy, mild sub-acid with a distinct aroma. It is a superb dessert quality eating apple.


Ripens: September

AKA: Tulpehocken, Talpahawkins, Formwalder, Mountain Pippin, Green Mountain Pippin, Prim’s Beauty of the West, Pine’s Beauty of the West, Pound, Winter Blush, Kelly, Brubaker, Molly Whopper, Pharawater, Fornwalder, Stump of the World.

Circa: Before 1842 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Beach in Apples of New York, Volume I, Page 125, in 1905 wrote: “Color red tinged with yellow. Origin Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Hovey referred to it in 1856 as having been known and cultivated for many years.” It was described in 1842. The tree is a vigorous grower, the bark is a dark-red, and the coarse, shiny and large leaves are sharply serrated.

The exact origin the Fallawater and meaning of its strange name are not known, but theories abound! A standard story is the first seedling Fallawater tree grew on the banks of the Tulpehocken creek in 1842 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A good story is how the fruit was first discovered floating down the creek having “Fallen in the Water”. Great story anyway.

Large in size and globular in form, usually the skin is flushed a dull-red to a bright-red with russet dots, and the white flesh is tinged green. Very mild in flavor, the flesh of this dessert apple is coarse, crisp and tender, with a slight sweetness. A triploid, it is a regular bearer, and there have been reports that under very favorable conditions, the fruit will grow to 6 inches in diameter.


Ripens: September through October

Circa: Before 1800

Recently home gardens and small orchards have renewed interest in the Golden Russet for its distinctive appearance and intense flavor. The “champagne” of old-time cider apples is delicious for eating and drying.

It is grey-green to golden bronze with a coppery orange cheek; heavily splotched with light brown russet. Crisp, highly flavored, fine-textured, yellow flesh makes very sugary juice. They are high in sugar, acid and tannins, which make them a good pair with almost any apple for eating, cooking or cider.


Ripens: October

AKA: American Wine Sop, Banana, Hendrick’s Sweet, Holland’s Red Winter, Pot Pie Apple, Potpie, Red Sweet Wine Sop, Royal Red of Kentucky, Texan Red, Winter Wine

Circa: 1922 in Troutville, VA

A redder sport of Winesap. But gorgeous as Virginia Winesap apples are to look at, they’re even better to eat – tart, tangy, juicy, and extra firm.


Ripens: October

AKA: There are many different types of Limbertwigs, numbering around twenty. Most are named so because of the drooping nature of their limbs. Most limbertwigs have a distinctive taste, a little acidic, yet still sweet. Many simply reply: “Tastes like an old apple variety should”.

Circa: Cumberland Mountains

The apple is wonderfully colored. It has the most unusual color of purplish maroon with dots. It is firm, sweet, and very crisp. It originated with Swiss settlers in the Cumberland Mountains. It has medium size and is a very good apple for fresh eating. A truly great apple.

When refrigerated, this apple will keep until March. It keeps its shape in a pie and has splendid tart sweet pie flavor.


Ripens: October

AKA: Blacktwig, Paragon, Arkansas Circa: 1830 in Tennessee

This old Tennessee variety was introduced around 1830 as a seedling on the farm of Major Rankin Toole. This apple is of unparalleled fresh eating quality. It was said to be Andrew Jackson’s favorite apple. Once thought to be a synonym of Winesap, it is known to be the seedling of Winesap. The Black Twig is the ultimate in a tart apple; excellent for fresh eating and tannic acid which adds body to cider.

Fruit is large, conical with skin that is yellowish and covered almost entirely with dark red spots and indistinct red striping. Its flesh is white, almost yellow, firm, juicy, and mildly subacid. The fruit of the Mammoth Blacktwig tends to be rather tart when picked, but mellows to a luscious mild sub acid flavor reminiscent of Winesap when stored a couple of months. Great for eating fresh or cooking, this apple is an excellent keeper and should be stored in the refrigerator for peak flavor.

This apple is known as one of the very best apple for pies. It continues to increase in sweetness through the Christmas holidays. It will keep until March when it is in the refrigerator. It keeps its shape in a pie and has a splendid tart sweet pie flavor.


Our apple trees will grow to about 15’ – 20’ high and need to be spaced 20’ apart.


John Lemke
5342 Oak Crest Lane Lenoir, NC 28645

Bill Karr
5222 Sunset Creek Lane
Lenoir, NC 28645


Doug Hundley
Avery County Extension Center


The Coves Mountain River Club in Lenoir, NC 28645

©2016 John D. Lemke

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