• October 6, 2019 |

    a guide on comparing apples to apples

    apple-picking simplified

    article by , illustrated by

    When you take a break from studying for midterms and look around, you see leaves slowly exchanging their green appearances for robust, warm colors. Sometimes, you decide to venture out and try the seasonal Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks or the Orange and Fig Latte at Dave’s. Or you happen to notice all the varieties of apples and the dishes they’re folded into—apple pie, apple turnover, and apple cider—around you at grocery stores and farmers markets.

    What does this mean? It means that fall has arrived, of course! This is my absolute favorite season, not only because I can bring out my cozy fall sweaters, but also because I get to appreciate all the delightful seasonal treasures—namely apples—that it offers.

    Inspired by a local Whole Foods sign recommending certain types of apples for their respective recipes, I did a little bit of research to learn more about apples—their appearances, tastes, recipe recommendations, and histories—to appease my curiosity. 

    I found that in 1892, 735 different varieties of apples existed. Currently, according to the United States Apple Association, there are over 100 apple varieties grown commercially in the United States, representing a whole spectrum of shapes, colors, textures, and flavor profiles. However, 90% of apple production comes from only 15 popular varieties. Here, I have rounded up six of the most common varieties of apples that are typically found in today’s marketplace. From this guide, you can pick up some knowledge on how to best enjoy every type of apple, whether you are selecting them from the produce section or picking them at an orchard. Round of “apple”-ause for you! An apple may just be apple, but there is something special about each type—whether it be Gala, Fuji, or any of the many other refreshing varieties. 


    RED DELICIOUS: Kale Waldorf Salad 

    Originating in Iowa in the 1870s, this used to be the most popular apple variety in the world, but now falls behind both Gala and Fuji. This apple is considered top-heavy and has a creamy, fine-grained white interior. However, not all Red Delicious apples are the same, with colors ranging from striped red to solid midnight red and with some shapes being elongated or more round. Nonetheless, they are sweet and juicy, great for eating fresh, using as a garnish in salads, juicing, making applesauce, and drying! Red Delicious, however, are not well-regarded for their use in baking. Plus, they bruise easily and do not keep well, so fresh is always best. They are available from mid-to-late September. 


    GOLDEN DELICIOUS: Baked Apple Chips

    This all-purpose apple shares part of its name with Red Delicious, but they are not the same, despite having a similar taste. These are more versatile. What’s unique about Golden Delicious is its bright and cheery yellow skin with the occasional pink blush. They are loved by those who prefer a sweet, rich, mellow flavor with a crisp and juicy white flesh that pleases with its buttery honey taste. With these ripe gold-green specimens, eat them fresh or incorporate them into salads, pies, and sauces. Since they maintain their shape and retain their juice after baking, Golden Delicious is also one of the best all-around cooking apples! They are available from mid-September to early October and do not have a long shelf life, but apparently stay white longer when cut. Anyway, remember to refrigerate these soft apples. 


    HONEYCRISP: Open-Face Apple Tahini Sandwich

    Developed by the University of Minnesota in an effort to develop cold-water apples, this honey of an apple is “college educated” and also the official state fruit of Minnesota! Its skin is a distinctive, blotchy red on a yellow backdrop. As the name implies, this apple is crisp and honey-sweet with a juicy and surprisingly tart flavor. The moderate crunchiness and light overall flavor profile make Honeycrisps best for apple juice and excellent for eating fresh and putting in salads, pies, and sauces. Versatile and easy to store in the refrigerator, honeycrisps can be found from mid-September through early October.


    GALA: Apple-Berry Baked Oatmeal

    This New Zealand variety has gained popularity in the past 15 years. It was first brought to the United States in the early 1970s and has become the country’s most popular apple. Gala apples are medium to small in size and wide in shape with a heart-shaped appearance. Pinkish-orange stripes over a bright yellow undertone decorate its thin skin and protect the crisp and juicy yellow flesh that is fragrant and fairly sweet. It has a pleasantly mild pear-like flavor. Gala are often enjoyed raw, juiced, or in salads. More importantly, they (along with Fuji) are the best apples for applesauce! They must be refrigerated and used promptly due to quick spoilage. U.S.-grown Gala are harvested from late July to early September, but you can typically find them year round! 


    GRANNY SMITH: Slow-Cooker Applesauce

    This Australian native was discovered in 1868 and can’t be missed with its distinctive neon green color, tough skin, crisp bite, and extremely tart taste. Sometimes it bears a rosy red touch when ripe. The Granny Smith apple is an all-purpose cooking apple, and works well as a snack with nut butters, as well as in salads, hard cider, drying, and especially cooking and baking. They are perfect for adding depth to sweet or savory dishes, and their tart flavor sweetens with refrigerator storage. U.S. Granny Smiths are harvested beginning in August and are available year round. 


    FUJI: Spiced Apple-Pear Butter

    A relative of Red Delicious apples, Fuji apples were originally developed in Japan in the late 1930s. They weren’t introduced to the United States until the 1980s, and now more Fuji apples are produced in the United States. than in Japan. They are generally regarded as the sweetest apples, and their flavor and texture are sweet and extremely crisp. Fuji apples are bicolored, typically yellow-green with red highlights. Be creative in enjoying these large, firm, and juicy apples—they’re great for eating fresh, making juice, putting in salads, baking in pies, making sauces, and baking treats. They are also the best (along with Gala apples) for making applesauce. Fuji apples are great for storing,and keep for months if kept cool and dry. They are harvested beginning in September and available year round.


    Not all apples are created equal. While some apples are better suited for certain jobs, you do not have to limit yourself to using one type of apple! “Apple”-solutely try to use a mixture of apples to get more complex flavors and textures. In general, Gala and Red Delicious are the best apples for eating raw due to their sweet flavor, but are not as great for cooking with. In contrast, Granny Smith is the best apple for baking due to its tart flavor and ability to hold its texture without becoming too mushy. Fuji, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp are all-star apples, as they taste delicious raw, cooked, or baked. I hope this guide to the six common apple varieties helps you learn when and how to use each apple! 

    Happy fall, best of luck with midterms, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!