All about apples, pears, plums, and cherries - and orchards where they are grown

Rhode Island Greening apple

Rhode Island Greening is well-known American heirloom apple variety, dating back to the 17th century.  That makes it a very old apple, indeed there are not many European apples that can be traced back as far as Rhode Island Greening.  Perhaps surprisingly Rhode Island Greening is not a rare antique variety grown by enthusiasts as a historical curiosity, as its vintage might suggest.  Quite the opposite - it appears to have been a commercial variety from the outset and even today is still grown commercially in the north-eastern USA.

The main reason for this enduring success is that Rhode Island Greening is the definitive apple for American apple pie.  It is one of those apples (like the English Bramley) that really benefits from cooking to bring out the full richness and sweetness of flavor.  Whilst it can be eaten fresh after a period in storage, it is essentially a hard and uncompromising apple, far better in the kitchen.

Whereas the English like their culinary apples to dissolve into a puree or sauce, Rhode Island Greening - like most of the popular American cooking apples - tends to keep its shape when cooked.

Rhode Island Greening is a triploid apple variety - with three sets of chromosomes rather than the usual two sets (diploid).  There is also a tetraploid form with four sets of chromosomes.  The triploid form is the one most commonly planted and cannot pollinate other apple varieties.  It takes longer than most apple varieties to come into bearing, but then goes on to become a relatively large tree with the potential to be very long-lived.

Rhode Island Greening identification images

ARS GRIN
©Copyright ARS GRIN

  • Rhode Island Greening apple
  • Triploid (left) and Tetraploid (right) forms

USDA identification images for Rhode Island Greening

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


  • Year: 1926

  • Year: 1907

  • Year: 1921

  • Year: 1908

  • Year: 1903

  • Year: 1905

  • Year: 1916

  • Year: 1905

  • Year: 1903

  • Year: 1910

  • Year: 1915

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

Visitor reviews

  • 31 Oct 2016  MICHIGAN/KENT, United States
    I have an R.I. Greening in my orchard. 2016 was the first year for it to bear (one single apple). I protected it as if it were a gold nugget. A very beautiful apple indeed. Bright green ground. A nice reddish blush on the sunny side. I cut into that one apple about five days after harvest. It had a very pleasing tartness. Not one that would knock you off your seat. A slight citrus hint. I am really glad I planted this tree. I make a lot of baked apple deserts and am really excited to add this variety to my ingredient list.
  • 09 Sep 2013  NEW HAMPSHIRE, United States
    Complex and nuanced flavor. We inherited a tree from some unknown fore bearer, thinking it was a crabapple. Once pruned it began to yield these large, pleasant apples that are so versatile, if not the most beautiful.
  • 29 Oct 2012  UT, United States
    We live in a small mountain community in Southern Utah. We had our apple trees trimmed last winter and the one tree which never produces many apples is loaded this year! They are tart, but withstood the 1st and 2nd freezes. Sooo, I decided to pick them and do research. They look like, taste like and cook like the description of Rhode Island greenings. I love the taste and the applesauce is wonderful. The tree is on property that has been in our family for 150 years, ancestors who came from the north eastern US. I wish I knew the history of our tree.!!!
  • 28 Dec 2010  34, United States
    For a RI greening to be eaten raw you have to sprinkle it with salt, that will make it taste sweet. Trust me, I grew up eating and cooking with greenings. My mother, grandmother, and aunts prided themselves on making superb apple pies and they all swore by greenings as being the best, and necessary for a pie you could be proud of. You do need to add a lot of sugar for the pie to not taste too tart. In RI, in the 60's and 70's, you could find them everywhere but not anymore. I don't know why they fell out of favor, I miss them and have never found a good substitute.
  • 11 Feb 2010  IL, United States
    Often large and firm fleshed. Not as juicy as some varieties, but keeps its shape well when cooked, and esteemed as a cooking apple. The old, untended tree we inherited from Great Grandpa often developed surface like honeydew. The Rhode Island Greenings grown by a friend show none of this.
  • 20 Oct 2008  ARLINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS, United States
    These may be favored for pies but they are also pleasant, if not remarkable, eating as well. Generally more tart than otherwise but mild, with hints of cider, grapes, and lemonade. I can't say exactly how long mine had been off the tree--at least a week--but it was still firm, if tender, and refreshing to eat.

Tree register

United States

United Kingdom

Canada

New Zealand

  • Giles in HAMILTON, WAIKATO

Switzerland

Spring blossom records for this variety

2016 season

  • June  2016  - tree owned by B. in Searsmont, United States
  • 14th April  2016  - tree owned by Kenneth in Topeka, United States

2013 season

  • 19th May  2013  - tree owned by Richard in York, United Kingdom

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


Harvest records for this variety

2016 season

  • 3rd week September  2016  - tree owned by B. in Searsmont, United States

2013 season

  • 1st week November  2013  - tree owned by Alison in Albion, United States
  • 1st week September  2013  - tree owned by David in Rindge, United States

Origins

  • Species: Malus domestica
  • Introduced: 17th century

Using

  • Picking season: Late
  • Cropping: Good
  • Keeping (of fruit): 3 months or more
  • Flavor style (apples): Sharper
  • Food uses: Culinary
  • Food uses: Traditional cooker
  • Cooking result: Keeps shape
  • Discoloration of fruit: No discoloration (Good for drying)

Growing

  • Self-fertility: Not self-fertile
  • Flowering group: 3
  • Ploidy: Triploid
  • Bearing regularity: Biennial tendency

Climate

  • Cold hardiness (USDA): (5) -20F / -29C
  • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cool ( 20-24C / 68-75F)
  • Summer average maximum temperatures: Warm (25-30C / 76-85F)

Identification

  • Country of origin: United States
  • Period of origin: 1650 - 1699
  • Flower colour: White
  • Leaf colour: Green

Where to buy trees

The following tree nurseries offer Rhode Island Greening apple trees for sale:


Where to buy fresh fruit

The following orchards grow Rhode Island Greening:

United States


Canada




References

  • Cedar-Apple Rust  
    Author: Stephen Vann, University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture (FSA7538)
    Rated as susceptible - control usually needed where CAR is prevalent.
  • Apples for the 21st Century
    Author: Manhart

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