Montana's short growing season and harsh winters make apple growing more of a challenge than states in milder climates. But apple trees do thrive in Montana as long as the right varieties are planted. For areas that experience frost earlier than others, early or mid-season apples grow best. For gardens that where frost comes later in the fall, late-season apples may grow well. These winter-hardy, drought-resistant trees provide Montana gardeners their best chance of harvesting tasty, fresh apples.
Lodi, an early-season apple introduced from New York during World War II, ripens in late August to September, making it ideal for gardens where the threat of an early frost exists. The pale-yellow fruit displays a deeper yellow flush with a crisp, sweet-tart flavor. The Lodi may be harvested before it's ripe for use in pies. Otherwise, this apple only keeps for about four weeks and works well for freezing, drying and sauces.
Introduced in 1870 by John McIntosh of Ontario, this well-known mid-season apple matures in mid- to late September. The medium-sized apples are red with white, slightly tart flesh. This apple keeps well, lasting until Christmas if kept in proper cold storage in the refrigerator or a cool place such as a basement. Good for fresh eating, this apple also works well in cooking.
Goodland, a medium to large orangish-looking apple, was introduced in Manitoba in the mid-1950s. The fruit ripens in August to mid-September, making it ideal for a mid-season harvest. The crisp, sweetly and slightly tart flesh is tasty in desserts or sauces. The Goodland also stores well, lasting until mid-January in cold storage. It will still be tasty long after the other apple varieties have been used up.
Empire is a late-season apple that ripens in late September, usually a few weeks after McIntosh apples. The relatively new apple was introduced in 1966 in New York. The medium-sized fruit varies from red to yellow with crisp, slightly tart flesh. The Empire is best for eating fresh or in salads.
Introduced in Manitoba in 1961, the Carroll ripens in late August to September, just in time for a mid to late-season harvest. The mottled red and green colors make it a visually interesting fruit. Carroll apples keep well for months if kept in cold storage. The fruit works well as a dessert apple.