Baldwin apple: origin, cultivation & uses


As a child, I played every day in the garden in front of my house in my home town of Rheinlandpflanz. There, my interest in nature grew, as did my aspirations to become a natural scientist. I now study horticultural phytotechnology and am currently writing my bachelor’s thesis on the topic of crop protection in orchards. Since living Berlin, I have become particularly interested in improving the quality of life in cities with the help of plants.

Favourite fruit: figs, passion fruit, berries, limes and oranges.
Favourite vegetables: potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, pickles, lamb’s lettuce and rocket.

The ‘Baldwin’ apple is a very late variety with a good balance of sweetness and acidity. The trees produce regular yields with low demands on soil and climate.

Close-up of Baldwin apples
Still on the tree, ‘Baldwin’ apples looks scrumptious [Photo: Greg Kushmerek/]

Its special taste with consistent quality made the ‘Baldwin’ apple a popular variety in North America and later in Europe too. However, other varieties, such as ‘Red Delicious’, did better on the market. Over the years, ‘Baldwin’ apple trees were pushed out of the market. Today, they are only sporadically cultivated in private gardens. Baldwin apple trees are now considered endangered.

Origin and history

The ‘Baldwin’ apple originated in Massachusetts, USA. In 1847, the “Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste” stated that the ‘Baldwin’ apple was first found and described around 1740 on the farm of Mr. Butters. The apple was first named ‘Butters Apple’ after him. Over the years, Mr. Butters observed that his tree was intensively frequented by woodpeckers, whereupon he christened it “Butters Woodpecker Apple”. Eventually, a certain Colonel Baldwin marketed the apple under his name. Today, a monument stands on the spot where Mr. Butters’ tree once stood hundreds of years ago.

‘Baldwin’ taste and properties

The ‘Baldwin’ variety produces medium to large fruits with dimensions of 6.0 to 7.5 cm by 5.0 to 6.5 cm. They can be round, partly conical or slightly flat. The skin is fine and smooth. Their basic colour is pale yellow, but on the side facing the sun a red overcolour develops. The surface is dotted with visible, white-yellow lenticels. The calyx cavity has fine folds and is closed. The stalk is long, and the stalk cavity is slightly russet.

The flesh is green-yellow, crunchy and juicy. It is characterised by a mild acidity in combination with a vinous sweetness and a light, rose-like aroma. These are the characteristics that made the ‘Baldwin’ apple popular in its heyday. The core is faintly indicated with large, open compartments.

Special features in cultivation and care

The ‘Alte Hannoveraner’ has a medium to strong growth and consistently produces a regular yield, but it is prone to alternance. This variety is preferable for extensive cultivation, for example in orchards. The reason for this is its strong growth, its preference for sites open to the wind and its tendency to alternate.

For those who prefer to tame the strong growing varities, ‘Baldwin’ apple trees can be grafted with weak-growing rootstocks. The resulting smaller trees can be better treated with plant protection products. Pruning is also simplified.

‘Baldwin’ apple tree pruning should be carried out cautiously, as the tree may react with strong shoot formation. Additionally, summer pruning is more advisable, because winter pruning encourages alternation.

Tip: In terms of orchards, alternation means a fluctuation in yield from year to year. Pome fruits especially, like apples and pears, are prone to alternation. The reasons can be multifold, lying in genetics, wrong choice of location or care. Radical pruning and late frosts can trigger alternation.

‘Baldwin’ flowers develop around mid-May. The flowers are not well suited as pollinators. ‘Baumanns Renette’, ‘Cortland’, ‘Cox’s Orange’, ‘Geheimrat Dr. Oldenburg’, ‘Golden Russet’, ‘Jonathan’, ‘Kaiser’, ‘Alexander’, ‘McIntosh’, ‘Northern Spy’ or generally equally early-flowering varieties are suitable as pollinators.

Tip: The apple variety ‘Cox’s Orange’ is excellent as a pollinator because of similar location requirements.

The ‘Baldwin’ apple is long-lived and does not make extremely high demands on the location. However, it does develop a more intense aroma on a south-facing slope with a viticultural climate and with sufficiently healthy soil. These conditions protect it from disease outbreaks. ‘Baldwin’ apple trees are susceptible to some diseases and pests.

Problematic pathogens include codling moth (Cydia pomonella) and the two fungal diseases marssonina (Diplocarpon mali) and powdery mildew (Podosphaera leucotricha). Marssonina and powdery mildew strike when there is prolonged high humidity − the risk of infection is high during humid summers and in places that are windless and shaded in the morning. Such unfavourable conditions are more often found in small gardens and backyards. On the other hand, the risk of infection is lower in fields or meadows that are open to the wind. To prevent fungal diseases in unfavourable locations, regularly thinning out the crown opens it to the wind − this helps the tree to dry more quickly. Expert tips for pruning apple trees can be found here.

In professional cultivation, varieties that are resistant to diseases and pests are preferred, but in a suitable location, the cultivation of the ‘Baldwin’ apple is possible in both the private and professional sectors.

Cultivation and care at a glance:

  • In meadows: open to the wind
  • In the garden: grafted on low-growing rootstocks and with regular summer pruning
  • Modest site requirements, but open to wind; warm locations helpful against disease, infestation and senescence

Harvest and use of ‘Baldwin’ apples

The apple variety ‘Baldwin’ is a winter storage apple. The fruits can be harvested for storage beginning in October. By the time December rolls around, they are ripe enough to be eaten directly from the tree. The apples can be stored in a cool, humid place and enjoyed until March. ‘Baldwin’ apples can be used in many ways − they are particularly suitable for the production of juices or cider. They are also excellent in cakes or as traditional dessert apple.

Just like the Baldwin apple, the ‘Kronprinz Rudolf’ variety likes a location open to the wind. If, on the other hand, you are looking for an apple tree for a sheltered location in the garden, you will find the ‘Saturn’ variety to your liking.

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