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The Apples!

Meet the Apple that make us SPECIAL!


Due to late spring frosts/freezes, some of our early season varieties will not be available for the 2018 season.  This includes most or all of our golden/green varieties.

Heirloom Apples

The children of some distant day, thus to some aged man shall say, “Who planted this old apple tree?” — William Cullen Bryant

At the Orchard at Altapass, the answer to that question is “The Clinchfield Railroad.” Creighton Lee Calhoun, noted pomologist and author of Old Southern Apples, defines heirloom apples as those varieties that were grown prior to the time when “groceries” became the main source of fruit for most people, which he believes was the late 1920’s. Many of our apple trees were planted by the original owners, making them heirlooms in every sense of the word.

Apple history is from “Old Southern Apples” by Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr. Learn more about Creighton Lee Calhoun in this 2011 New York Times article.

Our Apples

You may purchase apples by picking them yourself or ones already packaged in the store. If you choose to pick the in-season apples, purchase a bag at the store and go out the orchard to see the different types of apples and even give them a taste before you choose! We supply picking poles so you can get to ones in the higher branches. Apples are sold by the peck ($10), which is approximately 8 dry quarts, or a half peck ($6).

In the following section, you’ll find information about the uses and ripening periods of all of our apples, as well as a bit of history of our heirloom apples. The apples are listed in order of ripening, earliest to latest.

The geography of the Orchard is well suited for apple growing. Located on a southeast-facing slope, it is frost free most of the time. On crisp spring nights when the blossoms are susceptible to frost, cold air slides down the mountain, where it is replaced at the Orchard by warm air. The rising sun likewise helps to protect the young fruit by quickly warming the slope at sunrise. State-champion apples were once grown at the Orchard, and at its peak, 125,000 bushels of apples a year were packed and shipped via the Clinchfield Railroad.

There are over 40 apple varieties at the Orchard. The earliest to ripen, in June, is the Yellow Transparent. It has a pale yellow skin and its sour taste and relatively short shelf life make it ideal for apple sauce. The red York Imperial apple, also referred to as the “Lop-eared Johnson,” got its nickname from its crooked appearance. The Virginia Beauty is a local favorite with its deep red color and yellow “bonnet” at the top. Other apples include the Grimes Golden, Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, Stayman-Winesap, King Luscious, and Red Delicious. Most of these varieties are available from mid-September to late October.
  • Lodi – Yellow Transparent

    Lodi is the first apple of the season, ripening in early July. A tart apple, Lodi is known mainly for making applesauce because it cooks down very quickly.

  • McIntosh

    McIntosh apples can vary in color from whitish yellow to greenish blushed with red. It is a crisp, juicy, aromatic variety that is ripe in late August.

  • Golden Delicious

    Our Goldens have a red blush! This is because they are not picked before they are ripe and ready. This makes them crisp, sweet, and pungent – unlike most of those found in grocery stores. They are great for snacking, and very fine for pies, cobblers and baked apples. Golden Delicious hold their shape well when cooked. They are harvested in mid-September through mid-October.

  • Grimes Golden

    People visit from miles away to pick this parent apple of the Golden Delicious. The Grimes Golden is ready to pick in early September. It’s sweet, delicate flavor is prized for eating, cider, and jelly. It makes particularly fine apple butter.

  • Stayman Winesap

    Cooks and cider makers make annual visits to The Orchard to pick our Staymans (locally called Stayman-Winesaps). They are also the choice of people who like hard, crisp, medium tart eating apples. No matter how many Stayman we are able to harvest, we always wish we had more. Available late September.

  • Magnum Bonum

    Magnum Bonum is called the “king of fall apples” because of its fine flavor. The skin is yellow and mostly covered with light red. It begins ripening in late September and may be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks.

  • Rome Beauty

    Rome is the classic pie apple – firm and tart, and holds its shape. Our supply of Rome Beauties is limited. Romes are available in late September.

  • Virginia Beauty

    Locally this is the favorite! With a tender fruit, a very heady apple taste, and aroma that deepens after it is picked and wrapped in newspapers for several weeks. Its color is wine with gold russeting at the stem. Locals make milk shakes from very ripe Virginia Beauties. It is also good for cobblers, pan-fried apples, and extra-sweet eating. Available late September.

  • Wolf River

    Wolf River apples are our second largest apple. Only a fair eating apple, it is best as a cooking and drying apple. It is prized for making apple butter. Wolf River begins to ripen in late September.

  • Yates

    Yates is a small apple, but it is prized for the excellent cider it produces. It is juicy and keeps well. Yates apples being to ripen in late September.

  • King Luscious

    The largest apple we grow (it’s huge) is very juicy and sweet – fine for eating and for light cooking. The King Luscious are best picked in early October.

  • Royal Limbertwig

    Royal Limbertwig apples somewhat resemble Red Limbertwig but they are larger and do not keep as well as Red Limbertwig. The fruit is large and the skin is greenish yellow with a slight red blush on the sunny side. The flesh is yellowish, juicy, tender, and slightly acidic. Royal Limbertwig is begins to ripen in early October.

  • Arkansas Black

    Arkansas Black is a beautiful apple and a good keeper. The fruit is medium size, nearly round. The skin is yellow, covered with deep red, almost black on the sunny side; dots numerous, small, white. Arkansas Black begins to ripen in early October.


1025 Orchard Road
Spruce Pine, NC 28777

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2018 Season Hours

  • 10:00 - 5:00
  • 10:00 - 5:00
  • 10:00 - 5:00
  • 10:00 - 5:00
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