THE BEST FRUIT TREE VARIETIES by Jan Cashman 9/5/13
This year has been a year of bountiful harvests! From the first garden crops of spinach and lettuce to many delicious raspberries to our overflowing orchard, we are being well- fed from our gardens and fruit trees!
Why was 2013 such a good gardening year? To recap the weather, things were not looking promising by the end of April—it was cold and very dry. But May was wetter and warmer than April—the last frost date at MSU was May 2; May 5 at the airport. (Here we had a light frost on June 1.) June produced adequate moisture. July and August brought warm, pleasant temperatures. Late August had some hot days, which helped to ripen everyone’s tomatoes and sweet corn. As of September 12, we have not yet had a frost—a long growing season for Bozeman.
We all have favorite varieties of tomatoes (I like Sunsugar cherry tomatoes and Parks Whopper) and sweet corn (I like Kandi Kwik and Fleet) that we plant in our vegetable gardens but some of you may not be so familiar with what varieties of fruit trees are the tastiest, most productive, and hardiest in our climate.
Because apricots bloom so early in the spring, their blossoms often freeze and the tree doesn’t produce a crop. There was no hard frost this year after our Moongold Apricot tree blossomed on April 27, so it produced a bumper crop of nice-sized, delicious apricots. Moongold is one of the best apricots to grow here because the fruit is sweet, tasty, and the tree seems to be self-fertile.
Our Luscious Pear tree is laden with fruit this year that will be ripe later in September. Luscious is a large, glossy-leafed tree which is fireblight resistant; the pears are tasty and slightly smaller than pears you would buy in the grocery store. Parker and Patten pears will work as pollinators for Luscious.
My vote for the best plum is the self-fertile Mount Royal. Our Mount Royal Plum is so laden with plums right now that its branches are touching the ground. The plums are blue, freestone, and sweet when ripe in October. We dry the plums in a food dehydrator for nutritious snacks all winter.
Meteor is one of the best hardy pie cherries—a dwarf tree but a prolific bearer. This is the first year our old (35 years) Meteor has not produced a large crop, but our son Joe’s Meteor cherry, planted in 2007, is a perfectly shaped little tree that was full of cherries. The robins like to eat the cherries, too; they even built a nest in his tree. Many gardeners net their cherry trees to discourage the birds.
It’s hard to decide on the best apple variety for our area because there are so many that do well here and produce good quality apples. The apple trees in our orchard are laden with fruit this year, partially because many of the trees had a poor crop last year; many varieties of apples bear well only every other year. But super-hardy Goodland apple trees bear a crop every year. That is one reason Goodland is one of our “best” early apples, ripening in mid-September. The apples are good- sized, crisp, and juicy.
For wonderful flavor and juicy texture, it is hard to beat Honeycrisp and Sweet 16 apples, both developed in Minnesota. These two trees are doing well in our orchard, but our Honeycrisp apples are smaller than the huge Honeycrisp apples grown in other states. Both Honeycrisp and Sweet 16 ripen around October 1 and keep in cold storage for months.
Plant one of these superior varieties of fruit trees—our picks for the best in the Bozeman area.