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Duchess of Oldenburg apple

Duchess of Oldenburg is a very attractive early-season apple, originating from Russia in the early 18th century.  It is primarily used as a cooking apple.

Although never really a commercial variety, it was quite widely grown across northern Europe in the 19th century. It was imported to the USA in 1835 by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and its excellent cold hardiness made it a popular variety in the northern states. 

From the 1920s Duchess of Oldenburg became an early mainstay of the University of Minnesota's (UMN) long-running and well-respected cold-hardy apple breeding program. The true extent of its role was not apparent because of errors in written records of parentage, but recent DNA testing by Luby, Howard, Tillman and Bedford at UMN, found that Duchess of Oldenburg was present in the ancestry of almost every apple variety ever developed at UMN.

Duchess of Oldenburg identification images

USDA identification images for Duchess of Oldenburg

The identification paintings in the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection span the years 1886 to 1942.

  • Year: 1928

  • Year: 1927

Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705.

Offspring of this variety

Visitor reviews

  • 16 Apr 2021  NEW YORK, United States
    Great for cooking, not fresh eating. Extremely tart, with very little sweetness, and little juice. A soft, very early apple that only keeps a few weeks in cold storage, or literally just a few days at room temp. They are like no other apple I’ve ever tried, and have been growing them for 15 years. Tree is hearty, and has large crops every year. I disagree with others on a few points, as there might possibly be differences between individual trees, but there is no way these can be eaten fresh. They are simply too tart with very little sweetness, and soft texture. They are fantastic for drying, baking, and pies/sauces. The apple is soft, and mealy a day or two after ripe, and some report that they turn to mush in a pie, but I have had the opposite experience. Even though they are soft, they retain their shape and definition quite well in a pie, and their tart flavor profile in this usage is stunning. They are highly recommended, as long as you careful picking them within the right harvest window.
  • 07 Jun 2019  MI, United States
    I have 2 Duchess trees in my home orchard..This is one apple that if picked before it is ripe wouldn't be good for fresh eating..Allow it to fully ripen before fresh eating..Large apples every year on my trees..Good for fresh eating and excellent for cooking..
  • 05 Aug 2014  BRITISH COLUMBIA, Canada
    Our tree is quite old - our guess is it is at least 80+ years old. It produces upwards of 600+ pounds in a good year and 300+ pounds in a dry Summer. The apples are excellent for eating and apple sauce, as they break down too readily in pies.
  • 06 Aug 2013  United States
    We harvested 7-10 bushels of Duchess. I would use one word to describe the apple: Tart. I usually like tart apples, but Duchess is simply too tart.
  • 17 Jun 2012  WA, SPOKANE COUNTY, United States
    This is a good keeper in cold storage. Ours was good for cooking up until March this year 2012. When I use it for pie or apple crisp I like to add a little lime juice for tartness. Overall mild sweet taste.

Tree register

United States


New Zealand


Spring blossom records for this variety

2014 season

  • 15th May  2014  - tree owned by Thomas in Cottage Grove, United States

2012 season

  • 9th May  2012  - tree owned by James in Estacada, United States

Record your blossom dates in our Fruit Tree Register - more >>.

Harvest records for this variety

2018 season

  • 1st week September  2018  - tree owned by Esther in Saranac Lake, United States

2016 season

  • 4th week August  2016  - tree owned by Barbara in Poulsbo, United States

2012 season

  • September  2012  - tree owned by James in Estacada, United States


  • Species: Malus domestica
  • Introduced: 18th century


  • Picking season: Early
  • Cropping: Heavy
  • Keeping (of fruit): 1 week
  • Flavor style (apples): Sharper
  • Food uses: Culinary
  • Food uses: Traditional cooker
  • Cooking result: Puree
  • Discoloration of fruit: Oxidising
  • Juice style: Sharper


  • Attractive features: Attractive fruit
  • Self-fertility: Not self-fertile
  • Flowering group: 2
  • Ploidy: Diploid
  • Bearing regularity: Regular


  • Cold-hardiness: Cold-hardy
  • Cold hardiness (USDA): (3) -40F / -40C
  • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cold (< 20C / 67F)
  • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cool ( 20-24C / 68-75F)
  • Summer average maximum temperatures: Warm (25-30C / 76-85F)


  • Country of origin: Russia
  • Period of origin: 1750 - 1799
  • Flower colour: White
  • Leaf colour: Green

Where to buy trees

The following tree nurseries offer Duchess of Oldenburg apple trees for sale:

Where to buy fresh fruit

The following orchards grow Duchess of Oldenburg:

United States



  • Apples of England (1948)
    Author: Taylor

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