Jonathan apple: A tangy American heirloom variety

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Apples come from all around the world, but the Jonathan Apple is a true American classic.

The Jonathan Apple is an American heirloom apple variety with an attractive bicolor peel and a crispy, tart flavor. They are medium-sized with bright red skin and yellow flesh. They are sweet, crispy, and tart, performing well in baked goods. Discover in New York over 200 years ago, Jonathan Apples are now one of America’s favorite heritage baking apples.

Read on to learn all about Jonathan Apples!

Jonathan apples

Jonathan apples: The basics

Jonathan Apples are one of the best traditional American fall fruit tree varieties. These fruits have the classic old-fashioned apple taste that’s not too sweet but is a little bit spicy. The first Jonathan Apples of harvest are tart and snappy while the latter fruits are a little sweeter in flavor.

The Jonathan Apple has the classic look of American heirloom apples, with a nice bicolor peel of yellow and red. The outside of this apple is covered in bright red skin, sometimes accompanied by faint stripes. The flesh inside is a pale creamy-white tone.

Jonathan apples are average-sized apples. They are medium in width but taller in height when compared to many other apple varieties.

They are great for fresh eating, freezing, baking, and cooking.

The taste of these fresh apples is like no other. If you like tart apples like Granny Smith, then this is the one for you. While you can taste the sweetness of the Jonathan apple, the tang will take over.

Jonathan apple

Origins of the Jonathan apple

The Jonathan Apple first grew from a seedling tree over two hundred years ago. The original tree grew on the farm of Philip Rick near the towns of Woodstock & Kingston in New York state. Jonathan is thought to be a seedling of the famous Esopus Spitzenberg Apple.

The apple went through a variety of names but “Jonathan” stuck when a Rick family friend, Jonathan Hasbrouck, brought the apple to the president of the local horticultural society. He loved the apple and named it after Jonathan Hasbrouck.

“The original tree sprang up on the Rick farm, outside of Woodstock, sometime in the 1790s. In 1826, a local lawyer named Jonathan Hasbrouck brought his friend Judge Jesse Buel, president of the Albany Horticultural Society, to see the apple. Buel fell in love with it and quickly spread its fame (along with its scion wood).”

Apples of Uncommon Character: Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders, by Rowan Jacobsen

Since then, the Jonathan Apple has grown in popularity and has become a fan favorite. Many still enjoy the natural tang of the apple, even more so than when compared to newer, more modern apples.

The Jonathan Apple is frequently used to breed new varieties of apples. The Jonathan apple is a parent apple to the Jonagold Apple, the Jonamac Apple, and the Jonalicious Apple.

Where are Jonathan apples grown?

The North East still grows Jonathan apples as many of the locals there prefer it over newer apple varieties. Jonathan Apple’s growing regions include New England, the East Coast, and the Midwest.

Modern apples have mostly overpowered the Jonathan apple in commercial orchards, but not in New England. Jonathan Apples are still used in breeding because New England likes to pay tribute to more historic apples.

Jonathan Apples bloom midseason, with white and light pink flowers appearing prior to the fruits. They should be grown in well-drained soil.

Jonathan apples
Jonathan apples

When is harvest season for Jonathan apples?

Jonathan Apples are harvested in mid-autumn and are generally gathered in September or October. This is the optimal time to begin picking your Jonathan Apples. They will be ripe and ready to eat.

Additional Reading: When to Pick Apples – A Harvest Season Guide

Cost of Jonathan apples

Jonathan apples cost about $1.50 per pound. They tend to cost slightly more than common supermarket apple varieties due to their lack of commercial cultivation. Jonathan apples are not commonly found in grocery stores. Look for them in specialty markets and orchards (particularly in the northeast).

Jonathan apple tree
Jonathan apple tree

How to grow Jonathan apples?

Jonathan Apple trees can be grown in Zones 4-9. They grow best in full sun planting locations where the soil is rich in nutrients and drains out excess water easily. Sandy loam soil is optimal. Sandy loam soil is a mix of sand, silt, and clay. It is good for drainage and will work to ensure the tree is not drowned.

Water young Jonathan Apple fruit trees regularly. Trees should be watered quite deeply about once a week in normal conditions. If the weather is hot and sunny, then the tree may need more water. Consistent and frequent watering is key for the Jonathan apple tree to develop an established root system.

Jonathan Apple trees require full sunlight to produce the best crop. They need at least six hours in the sun every day, and they do not tolerate full shade well. If the tree does not get enough sunlight, then the taste and appearance of the apples will change.

“One of the few self-fruitful apple trees, Jonathan is moderately vigorous and bears early, annually, and heavily. The tree will remain fairly small with slender, delicate growth. Leaves are dull, somewhat coarse, pubescent, and irregularly serrated.”

Apples of North America: Exceptional Varieties for Gardeners, Growers, and Cooks, by Tom Burford

How long do Jonathan apples store for?

Jonathan Apples are fairly good storage apples but are meant for fresh eating if possible. While they can be stored for months in cool storage, they do lose quite a bit of their characteristic tartness and crisp texture. Due to the loss of quality in storage, Jonathan Apples are usually used within a month or two of the harvest season.

Recipes where Jonathan apples shine

Jonathan Apples are great for baking. Because of their natural spice and tang, they do well in many baked goods. In addition, they do well in other foods such as apple chips and applesauce.

You can use Jonathan Apples in any recipe that calls for apples (especially if you like tart apple flavor). They are delicious and crisp, making them perfect for a variety of different dishes. Below is a list of the most commonly used recipes for Jonathan apples:

  • Apple Pie
  • Applesauce
  • Fresh Salads
  • Apple Crisp
  • Apple Chips

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Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also a professional engineer, certified permaculture garden designer, and master gardener in training. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.