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Best 10 Irish Apples

We have put this list together as we are often asked about our favourites. Not all of the trees in the collection have fruited so each year as more fruit is produced the list will change.

1. IRISH PEACH (EARLY CROFTON) Late July/Early August

The rest of the summer apples to ripen and one of the best flavoured of the Irish varieties. One of four Irish desert apples from the Crofton Estate in Sligo, possibly dating back to the reign of Elizabeth 1 (late 1500s or early 1600s). This smallish green/yellow flushed with carmine striped crisp fruit was much planted in the UK in the 1900s and is a pure tip-bearer of moderate vigour with a spreading habit. The fruit is best eaten straight from the tree (or within two days of picking) when it has a crisp juicy texture and an aromatic/rich vinous flavour. This variety has little commercial potential as it quickly becomes soft and dry. The main problem is scab, which can affect the fruit badly with leaves and buds also getting scab to a lesser extent.

2. WIDOWS FRIEND August/September (The first to flower!)

An apple that was once much grown in Co Armagh. This is another summer apple with a fruity berry flavour t hat is very juicy. The fruit is small but is a regular and heavy bearer. Masses of white tinged with pink flowers in early April, one of the first trees in the collection to flower. The tree is moderately vigorous eventually making a round-headed tree with drooping branches. A very colourful fruit (orange/red) on the tree and is cleared if there are any children around!

3. KERRY PIPPIN Picked in Late August. Keeping until October.

A second early apple much grown in Ireland in the 1800s and was still well known and grown in the 1940s-50s. The fruit is small to medium in size and is crisp and crunchy the flesh being white yellow turning to golden yellow and having an aromatic or spicy tang. The tree is of moderate vigour, fairly upright and produces spurs freely being a regular bearer. Usually a healthy variety but slight scab has been observed. It has been described as being coloured like a tortoise-shell butterfly.


An apple once grown in Co Monaghan. The fruit is medium sized, round and uneven, with broad angles from which it gets it’ s name of Eight Square. The skin is pale whitish yellow almost white looking like it is made out of wax with a slight pink ush. The flesh is white firm and crisp, slightly acid with a good flavour. The tree is late to come into leaf and flower so could be good for areas that suffer from late frosts. The habit is spreading.

5. CAVAN SUGARCANE September/October

This is one of the varieties that Anita collected in County Cavan with the late Charlie Robinson. The tree is very strong growing producing a vigourous spreading form that in 2006-2007 produced large crops. The fruit is medium large, round, conical and ribbed. The skin is green truning more yellow as it ripens. The flesh is white, crisp and juicy with a distrinct sweet cider apple flavour.

6. ARD CAIRN RUSSET October keeping until January/February

This late keeping apple was found in about 1890 by William Baylor Hartland of the Ard Cairn Nursery (Templemore) Cork. He sent samples in 1910 to the R.H.S. in England where it received an award of merit. We have found it growing all over the south. A medium sized, conical fruit while the skin is golden yellow with orange or flushed carmine showing from under the golden brown russet. The yellowish white flesh is very sweet with a distinct banana flavour. It keeps well with the sweetness increasing in storage.

7. ROSS NON PAREIL November keeping until February

The original tree of this variety was a seed that came from France, planted and grown in Rosslare, County Wexford. This may be how it got its synonym of “French Pippin”. It was introduced into England in 1819 by the Kilkenny nurseryman John Robertson and by 1845 was being grown in America. The tree is fairly upright and twiggy in its growth, and the medium sized round fruit is covered all over with thin golden brown russeting and scarlet stripes. the crisp sugary flesh is greenish and although it is often described as having a fennel flavor this may only be apparent in very good years. A favouite of the great pomologists Robert Hogg and Edward Bunyard.

8. KILKENNY PEARMAIN October to Christmas

This pretty medium sized fruit is round to conical in shape, has yellow skin sprinkled with russet dots and tinged with orange and red. The flesh is yellowish, crisp, tender, juicy and sweet but can dry on keeping. First recorded in 1831, this unright spreading tree has produced large crops especially in 2007.

9. KEEGANS CRAB November keeping until February.

The original tree of this variety was just missed by Dr Lamb in the late 1940′s at Ballyhegan, Loughgall, County Armagh. Where it fell at seventy years of age. Once much grown in Armagh orchards and exported to Scotland. Most definately not a crab apple. The fruit is medium sized, round and slightly conical. the skin is dull green becoming yeallow when ripe, the white flesh being firm, crisp, juicy and sweet. I can remember paedar McNiece saying that a tree that grew at his Aunt’s had produced huge crops every year since he was a child.

10. SAM YOUNG October/November

Also known as the “Irish Russet”, Sam Young was first known in 1820. Dr Lamb (1951) said that trees were known to exist in Counties Kilkenny, Offaly and Cavan. A small and flattish fruit with t he skin often having large cracks in it. This is a real russet with the green skin ( becoming yellow when ripe) having coarse russet over the base of the fruit and around the eye. Despite its size the flavour is excellent, the flesh being firm and crisp with loads of sweetness and a wonderful intense pear-drop flavour . A fairly vigorous tree and spreading and fruits on one-year-old wood and on the tips. This fruit is a real favourite with everyone at Seedsavers!

Cooking / Dual purpose apples

1. WHITE MOSS September / October

Grown in the orchards at Piltown, County Kilkenny in the early 1900′s (Dr Lamb 1951). This varity makes an upright spreading tree of moderate vigor. The fruit is meduum flat, round, with green turning yellow skin. Good flavor and good yeilds. A moss apple was seen in Kilkenny by Tighe in 1802 and was cultivated for cider.

2. BLOODY BUTCHER October / November

Seen growing by Dr Lamb in the 1940′s under this name in the midlands, but was reported to have been grown in Kilkenny where it was called “Bloodhound” and in Offaly where it was called “Winesap”. The  fruit is an amazing colour of pale yellow, almost completely covered by the darkest crimson red and scattered with a few russet veins threaded around it. The large fruit causes the tree growth to be spreading and pendulous. The flesh is white, firm and moderately juicy acid. A great tree to have in your collection for the name alone!

3. APPLETOWN WONDER September / October

Found growing in the Drumcollogher area of West Limerick by students of An t Ionard Glas, The Organic College. A very large green turning yellow, conical fruit. Some of the fruit are over 1lb in weight. The fruit is much ribbed and puckered, rather like a “Catshead”. This tree is one of the self rooting varieties in the collection and although the trees are grafted, four year old cuttings taken from the tree in autumn should root by themselves.

4. FRANKS SEEDLING September / October

Grown from a pip by Dr Lamb’s father Frank. A large round fruit that has a green background half covered with dark brown red.  A good cropper whose heavy loads pull down the branches.  Makes a golden pear like, sweet apple juice.

5. MRS PERRY September / November

I think this is a true star of the collection especially for where we are on the west side of the country.  Originally given to us by Elizabeth Cave as a branch that we stuck into the ground, whereupon it rooted and produced about six apples in its first year.  Named after Mrs Perry from Donegal Town whose daughter planted it as a pip.  The fruit is very large round, conical, pale greenish/yellow ripening to gold, flushed with red on the side that catches the sun.  The flesh is creamy white, crisp and extremely juicy.  It has a moderately sweet, sub acid flavor with a delicate scent.  It holds well on the tree but needs to be eaten fairly soon after picking.  A very abundant cropper.

6. BALLYVAUGHAN SEEDLING September / October

One of the first trees collected by the I.S.S.A for the native apple collection.  The large round irregular fruit, has a yellow green, red flushed skin.  It can be eaten if you like a sharp dessert and has a long lasting, sweet after taste (rather like brandy).  Testing for oxidization showed great potential for anti oxidant qualities. Also a self rooting variety.

7. UNCLE JOHNS COOKER October / November

An old variety grown in the orchards at Piltown, County Kilkenny from the late John Daniels.  This is a beautiful, large, shiny red that can be picked early for cooking or left to sweeten where it develops a sweet, dry strong berry flavor.  The apples hang well on the tree, but watch out because the colour will draw in the crows!



We grow this early, old English variety because it is remembered by so many people who robbed apples as children.  This apple would have been grown everywhere in Ireland (it even grows as an old tree in the farm next to us).  This small to medium sized, flat/round fruit is pale green/yellow overlaid with red stripes and dots with a little russet.  A good flavor mix of sweet and sub acid, the creamy flesh has a distinct pink stain under the skin, which is often the characteristic that is remembered.


Now this really is a crab, in fact it is a purple leaved crab that was found growing out of an old beech tree in Lough Key Forrest Park, County Roscommon.  The leaves start off purple gradually turning dark green. It has beautiful bright pink blossom and small conical heart shaped purple fruits that can be made into an excellent red jam or jelly.  This is also a self rooting type.


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