There are so many food choices this harvest season, and apples are no exception.
Once upon a time, groceries only seemed to offer Red Delicious, and perhaps Golden Delicious, if you were lucky. While they were great for the shopkeeper, as they looked good, stayed on the shelf well, and did not show blemishes as badly as other varieties, their taste and texture left a lot to be desired for the consumer. Now, that more options are available, you almost need a roadmap to navigate which will be the best for eating, baking, cooking, stewing, and more.
So, here’s a brief run-down on the history, characteristics, and uses of some of the most often available varieties in the local markets in no specific order:
Gala apples are a hybrid of Kidd’s Orange Red and Golden Delicious apples. The origin of this apple is New Zealand back in 1934. It did not become available to grow in the United States until after a farmer got a US plant patent for the gala in 1974. They are smaller in size and mildly sweet. Their color features more of an orange hue and they are delicious when eaten raw, cooked in desserts such as pies, and are especially good for creating apple sauces or juices.
Red Delicious apples first originated from seedlings in Iowa in 1880. It is really easy to pick out among other apples due to the conical shape. Its bright red color made it successful commercially because of the shelf appeal, however, it is not the best-tasting apple out there these days. The flavor profile is very mild, the skin tends to be tough, and it does not hold up very well when cooked. This variety is best when it is eaten raw as a snack or in salads.
Granny Smith apples originated in Australia in 1868. They are thought to be a hybrid of a domesticated and wild European apple. Something unique about granny smith apples is that when cut, the flesh of the apple is resistant to browning. The firm characteristic of granny smith apples that makes it very popular in baking and cooking. Traditionally it is pretty tart, but when added to pies the sugars sweeten it up. If you see yellow Granny Smith apples, that means they are overripe so it is best to buy them when they are green.
Fuji apples were developed at a research center in Fujisaki, Japan in the late 1930s. It is a cross between the Red Delicious and Ralls Genet varieties. The sweet taste of these apples is unrivaled and is also good for snacking and baking. Arguably the Fuji has the longest shelf life of all the apples on this list because these apples can remain fresh for up to a year with refrigeration. The Honeycrisp variety was developed at a horticulture research center at the University of Minnesota. It was purely bred for taste but it does retain its color and in cool, dry conditions it can have a pretty long shelf life. The level of sweetness, firmness, juiciness, and tartness makes it the perfect apple to snack on, make into a juice, or bake into a pie.
Pink Lady has a hardness to it which makes it last longer than most apples. Pink Lady is actually a trademark name, the real name of these apples is Cripps Pink. It originated in Australia in 1973 and is a hybrid of Lady Williams and Golden Delicious apples. What makes Pink Lady apples unique is the amount of time it spends ripening. These are the first to blossom and the last to be harvested which gives them a huge depth of flavor. There are a lot of quality standards that must be met for growers of this variety. These apples are also tart so these can also be utilized well in baking and cooking, and are the only truly pink apples on the market.
So, with those details in mind, we hope we just made that apple-laced smoothie, snack, salad, or pie a little better.