What are Cortland Apples?

Lisa O'Meara

Cortland apples are a variety of heirloom apple developed at Cornell University's Geneva Research Station in Geneva, NY around the turn of the 20th century. Named after a nearby county with a flourishing agricultural community, Cortland apples were cultivated by crossing a McIntosh apple with a Ben Davis apple. They are around the 12th most produced apple variety in the United States with the majority of production centered at Cornell. They are also mass produced in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

Cortland apples can be cooked down and made into applesauce.
Cortland apples can be cooked down and made into applesauce.

The skin of Cortland apples tends to be firm and to have a lot of color, usually 20-30% red with a yellow undertone and green streaking. Characterized as snow white in color, their flesh is sweeter than that of their parents with a bit of tartness. Cortlands are considered ideal for sauces and baking. Because their flesh is very juicy and generally doesn't brown very quickly when exposed to the air, Cortland apples are considered a good choice for use in salads, kabobs, fruit plates or as garnishes to other dishes. These apples should be kept refrigerated and used as soon as possible after being picked or purchased because they tend to lose their flavor and crispness rather quickly.

Cortland apple trees are considered semi-dwarfs because they grow only 15-20 feet (4.5-6 m) tall. They take three to five years to reach maturity and generally grow best in well-drained soil exposed to full sun. Although they handle freezing temperatures well, they prefer the sunny and cold weather of the eastern United States to the cloudy cold of Canada. Unlike other trees, Cortland trees do not require a pollinator but will act as one for any other apple trees nearby. Cortland apple trees are heavy annual producers, typically blooming in April with peak harvest time occurring between September and April each year.

Although the original variety was not patented, several mutations of Cortland apples have been cultivated and patented in the century since they were first created. The Lamont mutation, which was created in the 1980s, grows on a much smaller than usual tree. The Redcort mutation was grown a little over a year later and distinguished itself with fruit that is redder than the standard and that develops color earlier. An additional variety, called NS-911, was produced in the late 1990s and has fewer variances in coloration than original Cortland apples. All varieties of Cortland apples are generally considered a healthy food choice with one medium apple providing a great deal of Vitamin C and containing only 80 calories.

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Discussion Comments


I got a bag of Cortland apples from the farmer's market yesterday. I ate one just now and wow! It's very good. It's very fresh so still very crisp and full of flavor. And so juicy!


@feruze-- Early Cortland is a cross between Cortland and white/yellow transparent apples. But it's not as good as Cortland apples in my opinion. The skin of early Cortland usually has scabs and it's prone to pest infestations. It's also not as sweet as regular Cortland. I'll take regular Cortland any day of the week.

You're absolutely right about Cortland apples and baking. I usually use Cortland apples along with Granny Smith in my pies. They're sweet enough and don't fall apart like McIntosh apples.


There is also a variety of Cortland apples called early Cortland. Apparently, it's similar to Cortland, but ripens earlier. I'm not sure what the Cortland was crossed with to get the early Cortland though. Does anyone know?

I love using Cortland apples for pie. It's one of the best apples for baking. It's sweet, and not mushy.

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