The Snow Apple — aptly named for both the fruit’s white flesh and the tree’s winter hardiness — is one of the oldest known apple varieties. Also called the Fameuse, it originated in France, probably in the 1600s and was introduced to Canada and America one hundred years later.
The Snow Apple was the most common cultivated apple in Quebec, Canada for over 100 years, until an unknown disease or severe cold snap killed almost all the trees in the 1860s. Following the demise of the Quebec line, the Snow Apple fell into obscurity and is rarely grown today.
However, it’s got a lot to recommend it, most notably its flavor and rich, strawberry-like aroma. The fruit is on the small side, but very sweet and juicy. Writer and botanist Jules N. Paquet waxed poetic about the apple in his comprehensive book, Le Journal D’Agriculture Illustre, published in 1889. He said, “But I remain without expressions when I eat a Fameuse apple in our happy winter evenings. Is there a most succulent, most tasty; with a richer taste and more flavourful? In one word, is the Fameuse, no species will equal it in quality, argue its glorious title; Admittedly it has certainly not stolen it’s picturesque name.”
The Snow Apple is believed to be a direct ancestor of today’s well-loved McIntosh apple. It has a similar deep crimson skin with green stripes. The tree has a heavy branching and bearing habit and needs regular pruning to keep it in line. Without early thinning, it tends to produce a heavy crop biennially (every other year). The fruit doesn’t keep particularly well, so it is best eaten fresh, or used for cider or baked goods.
The Snow Apple tree is usually thought of as a hardy tree for cold climates, but it’s also found in warmer regions. Most sources rate it as hardy between USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 and 8. It has good disease resistance to mildew and bacterial canker, but is very susceptible to scab.
Is your curiosity piqued? Whether you want to grow your own tree or purchase some snow apples to eat, read on for more information on this antique apple.
Where to Buy Snow Apple Trees
Nature Hills Nursery – Costs for bare root Snow Apples are a bit more than other nurseries, but free shipping offers sweeten the deal.
Maple Valley Orchards and Nursery – If you’re experienced at grafting or need an affordable option for starting an orchard, visit this site. Maple Valley sells scionwood and root stock so you can graft your own Snow Apple trees at a fraction of the cost of bare root trees, which the company also sells.
Cummins Nursery – This small family-owned nursery offers exceptional customer service and an informative website. If they don’t have the tree you want, they’ll do their best to graft it for you.
Trees of Antiquity – This nursery sells certified organic stock. Trees ship while dormant between January and April.
Buying Fameuse Apples
Masonville Orchard in Fort Collins, Colorado is committed to raising heirloom and rare apple varieties. They sell fruit in season, including Snow Apples, at local farmers markets. For an additional charge, they ship fruit nationwide.
Alber Orchard and Cider Mill in Manchester, Michigan sells Snow Apples in season. Visit here for hayrides and a U-pick pumpkin patch too.
Windy Hill Orchard and Farm Market in Cassville, New York sells Snow Apples in addition to many other varieties. Buy boxed apples or pick your own (heirloom varieties may not be available for picking). Windy Hill also offers crafts, farm classes and field trip options.
A Poet and His Apples from Vermont’s Local Banquet – This wonderful article from Ellen Williams highlights the 90 year old Snow Apple tree still standing on Robert Frost’s Vermont farm. Historians speculate that the poet himself planted this majestic tree. The article also illustrates some of the challenges of saving and propagating antique trees.
Fameuse from Orange Pippin. If you’re an apple or fruit enthusiast, you’ll want to bookmark this site. Orange Pippin offers information on hundreds of apple varieties, including the Snow Apple. You’ll also find recipes, growing information and general articles about apples. Visit this site to join an Fruit Share program, as well. Whether you have extra fruit to give away or you’re looking for fruit, this site can help you find a match.
Snow Apple from Backyard Gardener. Here you’ll find basic growing information on the Snow Apple and many other apple varieties.
Snow Apple of Quebec from Good Fruit Grower. Click on this link for a critical review of both the pros and cons of growing Snow Apple trees.