Early summer apples were once essential to maintaining a year round food supply. Late storage apples are harvested in October or November, and under the best conditions might keep until April or May, leaving you just a short break until the earliest summer apples begin ripening in June or July depending on your location.
With global trade, early apples are no longer popular since you can get fall varieties shipped half way around the world to meet demand anytime of the year. If you’re looking to grow more of your own fruit and concerned with keeping a year round supply, try planting the earliest apple: Yellow Transparent.
Imported from Russia in the 1800’s when the USDA was looking for extremely cold hardy apples, this apples quick ripening time was essential in the short Siberian growing season. They’re easy to grow, resistant to disease, bear fruit at a young age and are hardy to at least zone 3.
Yellow Transparents, like most summer apples, are not quite the same as their fall counterparts. The have to develop fast, and as a result they don’t offer the same firmness or complex flavor that a fall apple provides. In our part of Vermont, our last frost this year was June 7th. We picked our first Yellow Transparent on July 15th. That’s just over 5 weeks, when most fall apples take nearly 5 months to reach full size.
As a result of their quick development they tend to be crumbly in texture, rather than crisp, and they store once ripe for only about a week. Since they’re impractical to ship, most people have never eaten a “crumbly” apple, and are a bit put off by something so far from their normal experience.
Yellow Transparent is somewhat acidic, but otherwise sweet and mild, vaguely similar in taste to a yellow delicious, but crumbly rather than soft fleshed. To cut the acid, and enhance the flavor, they’re sometimes eaten with salt.
Once ripe, these apples spoil very quickly. A week of shelf life is optimistic for a yellow transparent at its peak.
To keep you in apples for more than a week, the tree is and ripens in stages. over the course of a month starting at the top and most sun exposed branches. You’ll notice bird pecked tree falls begin littering the ground, and then you know it’s time to pick your first summer apples.
Yellow Transparent apples break down easily in cooking, and make an especially good creamy white apple sauce. They’re also good for freezing, drying, juice and wine. If you’re looking for local apples in the summer time to hold you over until fall, Yellow Transparent is a good choice.