This is the first year that I’ve had a crop in my tiny orchard (which is pruned savagely to keep it small and, I hope, capable someday of being moved, for when I own my own land). The trees that have now come into bearing are a Bishop’s Pippin I budded myself (my only success in something like ten years, sigh), and a Cox’s Orange Pippin and a Bramley’s Seedling I bought from Cornhill Nursery. It’s not a large apple crop, and the trees are too crowded — the orchard is intermingled with the pocket arboretum — for best fruit health. It’s a soggy, foggy location anyway. But, I have apples, and here they are:
The Bishop’s Pippin is a very prolific tree with big, conical apples. I find it a bit coarse, tasty right off the tree but there are other apples I’d rather eat; I like it best for cooking.
The Cox’s Orange Pippin flowers later than all my other apples, and later than any other tree in the neighbourhood. Like most apples, it’s not self-fertile. I’m glad it even set this one fruit, which, if the hurricanes don’t knock it off, we will eat with due ceremony when the time comes. Cox’s Orange Pippin is, I think, my absolute favourite apple. (Other ones I really like are Russet, Baldwin, and Northern Spy. I am desperately trying to bud or graft the Baldwin, without success thus far, because no nursery seems to sell them.)
The Bramley or Bramley’s Seedling is reported to be the favourite cooking apple in England. I don’t know what it’s like, as mine aren’t ripe yet, but I really liked the description of it. They’re certainly a large apple, even under the adverse conditions in my orchard. (Which grows bullrushes as weeds.)
The above links to more information on the varieties are from this site, by the way — Appleman; it’s a commercial orchard and cider producing farm near Gagetown, NB, with a lot of very nice products. His full encyclopedia of historical apple varieties is here. I think mostly they just sell ciders and wines, though.
Postscript, spring 2012: I just came across another nursery selling historical apple varieties, including many for cider and some red-fleshed apples. Siloam Orchards is too far away for me, sadly, being in Ontario, but it’s a useful resource describing many varieties.