Califonia Bountiful

Now's prime apple time

Sept./Oct. 2008 California Country magazine

Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in many unusual, lesser-known heirloom apples.

Apples have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years and today thousands of different varieties thrive in temperate zones throughout the world. Happily, there has been a resurgence of interest in many unusual, lesser-known heirloom apples. This is a crunchy, delicious and thoroughly delightful situation.

Many of these older varieties fell out of favor because they are not “good keepers,” meaning that they need to be eaten relatively soon after harvest for optimum flavor and texture. Not a problem! These special apples are so good they won’t last long anyway.

If you have an open spot in your yard, consider grafting or buying a “combination apple tree,” which is an apple tree with three or more varieties grafted on, in a dwarf rootstock. In a few years you’ll be rewarded with an assortment of apples—and not too much of one kind.

If you don’t have a tree, get out to your local farmers market. Now is the time to hunt down some amazingly varied apples, including Gravenstein, Hawaiian Gold, Dutch Boskop, Spitzenberg, Winesap, Northern Spy and even one called Pink Pearl, which is actually pink inside.

If you prefer a more tart apple, look for Pippins or Rhode Island Greenings. Different varieties will be available in different locations. Here in California, about 23,000 acres are dedicated to growing apples. Farmers in San Joaquin County lead the state in production, followed by Kern, Fresno, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus.

An interesting apple in season by itself is a treat. Simply put one in your lunchbox and call it dessert! Another idea is to serve slices of these special varieties alongside your favorite cheese after dinner, as a snack or as an appetizer at a party.

Want to try something beyond a lattice-top or apple crumb pie? Get online and select a recipe for a classic tarte tatin, an open-faced apple tart. For this, fresh Golden Delicious apples are hard to beat.

Andy Powning is a produce specialist with GreenLeaf, a San Francisco-based produce company. Send questions or comments to him at

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