King of the Pippins apple: taste, harvest & more

Lea
Lea
Lea
Lea

Having studied organic farming, I enjoy trying out new cultivation methods and other gardening experiments with friends in our community garden. I care deeply about exploring sustainable and mindful approaches to working with nature. This is my biggest passion, but I am also a real ornamental plant enthusiast!

Favourite fruit: strawberry, mango, guava
Favourite vegetables: artichoke, tomato, rocket

The King of the Pippins apple is a real staple when it comes to apple variety. Here are our expert tips on when to harvest, use, and preserve this heritage variety.

king of the pippins apple hanging on tree
The King of the Pippins apple is one of the oldest varieties in the world [Photo: Lightboxx/ Shutterstock.com]

The classic apple variety ‘King of the Pippins’ (Gold Winter Pearmain), known to some as the Reine des Reinettes, has been cultivated for centuries and is highly valued for its deliciously aromatic fruit. Nowadays, however, King of the Pippins has largely disappeared from commercial cultivation due to its demanding nature. For hobby gardeners, however, the hard work of cultivating these winter apples can be very fruitful. With the right location and care, you can successfully grow King of the Pippins apples in your garden.

King of the Pippins apple: a profile

SynonymsGold Winter Pearmain, Pike’s Pearmain, Reine des Reinettes
FruitMedium; orange with golden and red stripes when exposed to sun
FlavourNutty, sweet and sour
YieldHigh, varying from year to year; medium early; thinning out necessary, otherwise small-fruited
HarvestMid-September to early October
Ripe for eatingNovember to January/February
Storage Keep well until January or February
ClimateMedium requirement; can be cultivated up to medium altitudes; not reliably frost-hardy; flower somewhat sensitive to frost
HardinessSusceptible to canker, apple scab, mildew, aphids, codling moth, fire blight

Where is the King of the Pippins apple from?

The King of the Pippins apple is one of the oldest apple varieties in the world. It originated in the 16th century in Normandy in France as a chance seedling. Afterward, it quickly became a valued and popular variety. This is also evident from its French name: ‘Reine des Reinettes’, which means “Queen of the Renettes” (a group of apple varieties). In the 18th century, the King of Pippins arrived in England and by the Victorian period, had already become a well-established orchard apple.

ripe, red pippin apples in a wooden crate
King of the Pippins apples taste nutty and aromatic [Photo: parzelle94.de/ Shutterstock.com]

What does the King of the Pippins apple taste like?

King of the Pippins apples have a broad, almost flattened round shape. The fruits are medium-sized and have a smooth, shiny surface. This is greenish to yellow at first and turns orange when ripe. The side facing the sun shines in a golden hue and is streaked with its characteristic fine reddish stripes. These apples have crisp, firm flesh and taste nutty, sweet and sour. But it is not just the Reine des Reinettes’ taste that is unique: The first thing you notice after picking is the beautifully strong aroma the apples give off.

King of the Pippins apples: planting and care

As mentioned before, cultivating King of the Pippins apples is not always easy. This is mainly due to the high demands of this apple variety. Coming from France, this variety likes it as warm and bright as possible. Given plenty of sun and good soil conditions, this tasty apple can grow at higher altitudes. King of the Pippins apples do not grow as well in less sunny regions with harsh climates.

To thrive, King of the Pippins trees need well-draining soil that is rich in nutrients and humus. If your soil is lacking nutrients, enrich it with compost or a long-acting fertiliser like our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food. Add sand to heavy clay soils before planting this apple tree variety. The King of the Pippins tree is a mighty apple tree that grows tall with a sturdy trunk, which provides a safe habitat for different garden creatures.

king of the pippins apples
King of the Pippins apples like it as warm and bright as possible [Photo: Zhukov/ Shutterstock.com]

Where is the best location to plant a King of Pippins apple tree?

  • As warm and bright a location as possible
  • Well-drained soil, that is rich in humus and nutrients
  • Enough space for a tall standard tree

For more tips, check out our article on apple tree planting.

To ensure an abundant harvest, King of the Pippins’ branches need to be pruned regularly. If the branches grow too densely, the apples will not get enough light and not ripen properly.

King of the Pippins needs other apple trees nearby to pollinate and bear fruit. Other heritage varieties, such as Boskoop or Gravensteiner, work well for this. Good fertilisation also plays an important role in keeping King of the Pippin trees healthy. To fertilise a King of the Pippin tree, work a slow-release fertiliser, like our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, into the soil around the tree base every spring. During the summer, work in extra compost or fertiliser into the soil around the tree trunk every six to eight weeks.

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What to keep in mind when caring for King of the Pippins trees:

  • Regular pruning
  • Needs pollinator trees nearby
  • Regular fertilisation

When should you harvest King of the Pippins apples?

Between mid-September and the beginning of October, King of the Pippins apples are ready to be harvested. You can tell when King of the Pippins apples are ready to pick when their fruit stalk detaches easily from the branch as you twist it. Once ripe, lots of King of the Pippins apples tend to fall off. King of the Pippins apples do not store as well as other varieties, but are still delicious in juice, stewed apples, or puree.

Using and storing King of the Pippins apples

King of the Pippins do taste good freshly picked from the tree. However, the apples only reach their full ripeness after a few weeks of storage in winter. That is why the apple variety is often referred to as the golden winter pearmain. If the apples are stored from harvest (usually around November) to January or February, they will develop a particularly delicious flavour. To store King of the Pippin apples, place them in a single layer in crates. Put the apple crates in a cool and dark place, such as a cellar, but not in a location that is too cold, like a fridge. Temperatures around 4°C and a humidity of 98 % are ideal for King of the Pippins apples. Towards the end of the storage period, the apples’ skin may shrink slightly. However, this small blemish does not detract from the actual taste of the fruit.

crates of gold winter permains
Only after some time in storage will King of the Pippins develop their full aroma [Photo: Dovzhykov Andriy/ Shutterstock.com]

How to store King of the Pippins apples:

  • Apples only develop their full aroma after time in storage
  • To do this, place apples in a single layer in boxes
  • Store in a cool, dark place
  • Ideal conditions: 4°C, 98% humidity

King of the Pippins apples are perfect for baking delicious cakes and pies, for drying, and also for apple sauce or jelly. You can find more tips on harvesting and storing apples here.

If you are looking for a less demanding apple tree, then ‘Celler Dickstiel’ may be the perfect choice. This classic variety produces tasty apples, but is less demanding and less susceptible to pests and diseases than other apple trees.

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