With brutally cold and windy winters, gardeners in Minnesota must choose apple (Malus domestica) varieties that reliably survive temperatures annually as low as -20 to -40 degrees F. This means that they are proven in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 or 4. These apple trees also must be able to bloom and produce ripe fruits in the relatively short growing season that lasts from May to September. In northern Minnesota, consider planting apple trees in a wind-protected site or warmer microclimate on your property.
Growing 12 to 14 feet tall and about 10 feet wide, 'Cortland' is an apple tree best suited to USDA Zone 4 (southern half of Minnesota). The aromatic fruits are smooth, flattened spheres that are bright red, ripening on the tree in late September to early October. The mildly tart flesh is often used in baking pies, making sauce or in fresh salads since it is slow to turn brown once exposed to air, according to extension staff from the University of Minnesota.
'Fireside' is a variety best grown in the southern half of Minnesota, although this disease-resistant apple performs well in northwestern counties, too. The large, round, red fruits are particularly sweet (low acidity) in taste and are produced more abundantly if a 'Haralson' or 'Haralred' apple tree is nearby. Harvest 'Fireside' in mid-October. Trees grow 15 to 20 feet tall and equally wide with a rounded canopy. 'Connell Red' is a mutation of the 'Fireside' that produces redder fruits with a distinctive flavor.
A tart-tasting apple that is ready for picking by early October, 'Haralson' grows 12 to 16 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide. This tree is exceptionally cold tolerant and can be grown statewide, but requires with some wind and cold protection in the interior parts of the Arrowhead Region. The rounded fruits are bright red with streaks or speckles of yellow. They are often used for chunky-textured sauce or making dipped caramel apples and for baking pies and pastries. 'Haralred' is a selection of 'Haralson' that is similar in growing needs but produces slightly redder apples.
A crisp flesh and a pleasant-tasting blend of sweet and tart make 'Regent' a good choice in southern Minnesotan apple orchards. Ready for picking from the trees near October 1, slightly later closer to the Iowa border, this variety's fruits are great for pies, sauces, juice and fresh salads. 'Regent' trees grow 12 to 14 feet tall and equally as wide, producing lots of heavy fruits that may break horizontal branches.