Alkmene apple: how to grow the heritage apple variety


I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

Even though it is not one of the highest-yielding varieties, the ‘Alkmene’ apple is still popular for its delicious taste. Below is our guide to the ‘Alkmene’ apple and how to grow it.

ripe alkmene apple hanging on tree
The ‘Alkmene’ is characterised by its golden yellow colour and red sunny-side [Photo: ulleo/]

The ‘Alkmene’ apple, sometimes called ‘Early Windsor’, is a heritage dessert variety that is highly valued for its exquisite taste. Unfortunately, this variety is barely seen in commercial apple production anymore. If you want to get your hands on this delicious apple variety, you may need to grow the hardy ‘Alkmene’ in your own garden. Here is everything you need to know to do this.

‘Alkmene’ apple: a profile

Synonym'Early Windsor'
FruitSmall to medium-sized; golden yellow, orange-red on the sunny side
FlavourAromatic, honeyed, slightly acidic
YieldHigh and regular
Harvest timeFrom September
Ripe to eatMid- September to the end of October
Shelf lifeMedium; can be stored until the end of Novemeber
GrowthMedium to vigorous
ClimateMild climate, tolerates windy locations
Pests and diseasesHighly susceptible to fire blight, fruit tree canker, sunburn, spider mites

Origin and history

The ‘Alkmene’ apple variety originated in Müncheberg, Germany, where it was bred in 1930 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Breeding Research specifically for growing in drier regions. This was achieved by crossing the demanding English variety ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin‘ and the 19th century dessert apple ‘Duchess of Oldenburg’ which resulted in an early-mid season harvesting apple with a taste similar to the cox orange but slightly tangier.

‘Alkmene’ apple characteristics and taste

The small to medium-sized, round-shaped fruits of ‘Alkmene’ are remarkably similar to the ‘Cox Orange’ parent variety. Both have distinctively thin and smooth golden-yellow skin with orange-red colouring on their sunny side, as well as yellow-green, crunchy flesh. The particularly aromatic, honey-sweet and finely acidic taste is also reminiscent of the famous English dessert apple. Although its yield is regular and high, ‘Alkmene’ apples cannot keep up with the yield of common cultivated apple varieties such as ‘Golden Delicious‘, so it is rarely grown commercially. This early autumn variety is ready for picking as early as the beginning of September and is ripe to eat from mid-September to the end of October. Once ripe, unlike other varieties, ‘Alkmene’ apples will not drop from the tree.

pink and white alkmene flowers
The ‘Alkmene’ produces an abundance of blossoms in spring [Photo: Henry Oude Egberink/]

From the end of April to the middle of May, ‘Alkmene’ apple trees will begin to flower: they produce beautiful pink and white apple blossoms over a particularly long flowering period. For this reason, ‘Alkmene’ trees are also very popular with bees and bumblebees. In contrast to the cox orange variety, it is much more resistant to mildew and scab, two of the most common diseases in apple production. However, ‘Alkmene’ apple trees are susceptible to fire blight, fruit tree canker, sunburn, and spider mite infestations.

Top tips for cultivating ‘Alkmene’ apple trees

‘Alkmene’ apple trees feel at home in mild climates. The ideal location for this robust apple is in partial shade as it tends to get sunburnt easily, which can reduce its yields. Unlike its parent variety, ‘Cox Orange’, ‘Alkmene’ trees tolerate dry to moderately moist soils. However, for this apple variety to develop well, take care to ensure that the soil is well-drained and rich in nutrients. Generally, the ‘Alkmene’ variety also tolerates windy locations.

Depending on the location and care, ‘Alkmene’ apple trees display a medium to vigorous, upright growth. However, with moderate pruning and sparing fertilisation, you can limit the tree’s growth for smaller gardens. As with other apple varieties, regular pruning is essential for long-term fruit development. You can find out the right way to prune your tree to achieve a good balance of new shoot formation and yield in our article on apple tree pruning.

alkmene apple next to apple blossom
‘Alkmene’ apples are a real treat [Photo: ulleo/]

Like all apple trees, ‘Alkmene’ trees have deep taproots as well as lateral fibrous roots. This means it is well equipped to absorb the nutrients it needs from both far below and near the soil surface. Nevertheless, fertilising can be worthwhile to support the healthy growth of your apple tree. But be careful: too much fertiliser can cause more harm than good! Find out how to go about this in our article on fertilising apples.

Harvesting and using ‘Alkmene’ apples

‘Alkmene’ apples are an early autumn variety, ready to pick at the beginning of September. It is then ripe for eating from mid-September until the end of October. Unfortunately, ‘Alkmene’ apples are not very well suited as a storage apple, as they tend to rot easily and brown quickly. However, ‘Alkmene’ can usually be stored until the end of November if kept refrigerated at about 2°C.

Thanks to its delicate sweet aroma, the ‘Alkmene’ apple is perfect for eating fresh. Its tangy-sweet flavour is also a delicious addition to baked puddings like apple pie or crumble. However, if you want to enjoy your apples a little longer, why not try pressing a delicious juice from the apples or boiling them down with a little sugar to make applesauce.

If you are looking for an apple with a better shelf life, then Ontario is the one for you: this eating apple can be stored right up until May. Read more in our article on the ‘Ontario’ apple!