Apple trees (Malus domestica) in the garden yield more than wholesome fruit. Blush pink blossoms and gnarly branches lend beauty to the landscape while they bring promise of warm apple pies from the kitchen. Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees fit into small urban gardens and standard size trees are available for home orchards. Apple tree varieties for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 4, which includes parts of the northern United States and the Midwest, must withstand wintertime temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The best choice of apple tree varieties depends upon how you want to use the apples.
Fresh Eating -- An Apple a Day
The best apples for eating fresh have good flavor and good keeping qualities. USDA zone 4 apples ripen from mid-August to mid-October, and are classified as early-, mid- or late-season apples. Two of Utah Cooperative Extension's top 10 apples recommended for USDA zone 4 are "Sweet Sixteen," a mid-season apple that keeps well in storage for five to eight weeks, and "Macoun," a late-season apple regarded as one of the finest eating apples in the northeast.
Apple Pies and Sauces
Acidic apples are generally best for cooking. Some apples keep their shape during cooking and other apples break down and make sauce. Knowing your apple characteristics helps you choose the best apple tree for your intended use. Ripening in early August, "Duchess of Oldenburg" is a good sauce apple and is one of the best pie apples for cold-weather USDA zones 3 and 4, according to Fedco Trees. "Honeycrisp," a late-season apple for USDA zone 4, has good flavor and keeps its shape while cooking. "Honeycrisp" was voted the best apple for baking by NPR's Nancy Baggett and Guy Raz.
All Purpose Antique Apple
Snow apple, "Fameuse," is a late-season antique apple with snow white flesh and red striped skin. The Idaho Extension Service recommends "Fameuse" as one of the best apples for the state's USDA zone 4.
Success with Apple Trees
Apple trees grow best in full sun in well-drained, moderately fertile soil with a neutral pH level. For cross-pollination, plant two trees of different varieties that bloom and at the same time. Crabapple trees with the same bloom period as your apple tree will also act as pollinators.