The Different Varieties of Apples
Gala. Pippin. McIntosh. Though these sound like hobbits from a Tolkien novel, they are just a few of the numerous varieties of apples available in the fall.
Visiting a u-pick orchard or a farmer's market is a great way to check out the different apples available. Selecting which types to buy depends upon your plans. Are they just for eating or for making applesauce? Or are you thinking pies and desserts, or maybe cider? What types are available in your region? Of course, everyone has their favorites for tartness or sweetness, so the following suggestions are just that: suggestions. I can say I've never met an apple that I didn't like; however, I do have my favorites for certain situations.
With apples, bigger does not equate with sweeter. Excessive moisture may increase their fruit size but may dilute the flavor. Soft, sweet apples, like 'Gala'
make great applesauce, while harder and drier apples like 'Rome' or 'Arkansas Black'
are used for baking and long-term storage. Some apples get better with age as the flavor improves with storage. Some do not fare well in storage.
For straight out of the bin eating, select those that are more crisp and juicer with a hint of tartness like 'Fuji', 'Braeburn' or 'Honeycrisp'. Some prefer 'Golden Delicious' for its sweet, crisp flavor and firm texture, or the green 'Granny Smith' for their tangy flavor.
For making applesauce, there are several varieties to select from or to use in combination with others. 'Gala', 'Lodi', 'Golden Delicious', 'Fuji' and 'Jonathan' retain their texture and make really good applesauce. 'Jonalicious' and 'Crispin' also have a good firm texture for sauces.
There is something traditional about apple pie that harks back to my childhood and Thanksgiving dinners with family and relatives. These were the pies of choice, along with pumpkin or pecan, which I could count on for dessert. A number of apple types make good pies, but 'Honeycrisp', 'Gravenstein', 'Pippin' and 'Melrose' are four varieties often used in pies for flavor and texture. Others, like 'Arkansas Black', 'Rome', 'Jonagold' or the tarter 'Granny Smith' are also good for baking.
For making apple juice or cider, 'Winesap', 'Honeycrisp', 'Smith's Cider', 'Coppin' and 'Nonpareil' may be used. Generally tart and astringent apples make the best cider; some with higher sugar contents may go into hard cider production.
Pretty impressive for a tree whose origin lies in Central Asia where its wild relative still thrives. First described for science by the German naturalist Carl Friedrich von Ledebour in 1833, he found the wild species growing in the Atlas Mountains. Grown for thousands of years in Europe and Asia, apple trees were brought to North America by colonists. The first North American apple orchard was planted in Boston in 1625.
From the original species, there are over 7,500 cultivars of apples grown in the world. Bred for different flavors and textures, these trees are produced by grafting rather than by seed. China is the world leader in terms of apple production with the United States second. In the U.S., Washington State is the primary producer of apples due to the development of irrigation systems in Eastern Washington around the turn of the 19th century.
The arid climate and fertile volcanic soils provide excellent conditions for apple production.
So this fall try out some different varieties of apples to see what you like. Farmerís markets often have greater selections than supermarkets, and the growers can offer suggestions on which types to use for your different baking, saucing or juice projects. Another good source to check is your local Master Gardener or extension office for information on local apples. And another great thing about apples is that different varieties are available throughout the growing season, well into November.