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An Apple for Everyone!

There are over 10,000 varieties of apples grown throughout the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, and have unique characteristics that distinguish them from each other. At the Co-op, customer questions regarding apples are perhaps some of the more frequently asked. Is this apple tart or sweet? Can I use this for pie? How long can I keep this in my refrigerator? Following is a list of apples you’ll find at the Co-op, along with some information to help you choose the apple that’s right for you!

Ginger Gold is a fairly new variety from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It was discovered in 1969 and is descended from the Golden Delicious and Albemarle Pippin. Ginger Gold are crisp with a sweet, tangy flavor. Oval-shaped fruit range from greenish yellow to golden yellow with a slight blush. They’re a great multi-purpose apple. Their flesh doesn’t discolor when cut, so they’re ideal in salads and on fruit trays. Organic Ginger Gold only recently became available to the Co-op, but they’re gaining a loyal following, and I’d wager they’re here to stay. If you’re a fan, look for them early; they’re one of the first summer apples on the market.

The Ambrosia variety was discovered in 1990 in British Columbia in an orchard planted with Jonagold that had previously contained Red and Gold Delicious varieties. With its sweet, delicate, juicy flesh and intoxicating aroma, it was a favorite of the orchard workers. The grower recognized the potential of his newly found gem and let the tree mature, allowing him to graft and propagate the new variety.
Ambrosia is another early-season variety that does not store well and is therefore not grown in abundant volume. Supplies tend to taper off around January, so eat them while they last! Ambrosia are very sweet and are best eaten fresh.

Cameo is another newer variety gaining popularity as availability increases.It was first discovered in ’87 in a Red and Yellow Delicious orchard in Washington State. Its shape and flavor are similar to the delicious variety; however, it has a slight tanginess, and a dense, crisp flesh. It’s a good eater, and is fine for cooking.

The Gala variety is perhaps the most popular variety at the Co-op. It’s a cross between a Kidd’s Orange Red and a Yellow Delicious, and was first introduced in to the States from New Zealand in the early ’70s when consumers’ choices were pretty much limited to the Granny Smith and Red and Yellow Delicious. The Gala was new and exciting, and as popularity increased, so did production, which makes it one of the most affordable apples on the market.

Galas are sweet, juicy, and fragrant. They’re considered a dessert apple and are best eaten fresh. They can be used in pies and sauces but tend to break down and lose some of the characteristics that make them a great eating apple. Like the Ambrosia and Ginger Gold, the Gala is considered a summer variety. It is widely grown, and domestic supplies tend to last into the spring months.

Fuji is one of my favorites. It’s a late season variety with a dense, crisp, flesh. It’s sweet and tart, and like a fine wine, its flavor actually improves with storage. It holds its slice for pies and crisps, makes a great sauce, and is a great fresh eater. Look for new crop Fuji at the end of the month. Future Fruit also supplies us with some incredible locally grown Fujis.

Honeycrisp was developed as winter hardy variety with high-quality fruit at the University of Minnesota, and I can’t thank them enough! We can bicker back and forth about football, cheese, and who really has the most lakes, but when it comes to apples, they are the hands-down winner. Just under Bob Dylan’s name on the “Best Things That Came From Minnesota” list is the Honeycrisp apple, and some might argue it should be above!

Honeycrisp popularity has skyrocketed in the past decade. Almost everyone who has tried them wants more. They’re an incredibly crisp, delicate, juicy apple with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. One problem: they don’t store well! Honeycrisp production is still growing to meet demand, and with limited storage ability, supplies tend to go quickly. They tend to break down when cooked, so lend to sauce better than pies. I recommend eating them fresh, and as many as you can while supplies last! This is the Produce department staff’s favorite.

Braeburn apples are firm and crisp with a rich flavor. They’re a combination of sweet and tart and sometimes described as spicy. Their firm texture and complex flavors lend to its versatility; it is an ideal baking apple, makes great sauces, and is excellent as a fresh-eating variety.

Since its introduction from Australia in the early ’90s, the Pink Lady has fast become one of the most popular apple varieties available. It’s a beautiful apple-bright, reddish pink on top of yellow/green background with a uniquely oblong shape. Its creamy-white flesh is fine-grained, firm and crisp. It has a wonderful fragrant aroma, and its flavor is incredible. If you prefer an apple on the tarter side, we recommend the Pink Lady. It’s tangy and tart and finishes slightly sweet with an almost effervescent effect in your mouth. Pink Lady is a great multi-purpose, late season variety. They hold their slice when baked in pies and cobblers, make a great sauce, and don’t brown quickly when sliced and used in salads. When the Honeycrisp supply is gone, staff gravitate to the Pink Lady.

The Granny Smith has endured the test of time. Its green skin, firm, crisp and juicy white flesh, and zesty tartness make it a great all-purpose apple. It’s certainly the easiest to identify.

Granny Smith is perhaps the most versatile of all. They’re the classic baker; they hold their slice, and their tangy flavor balances perfectly with the addition of something sweet. They’re the choice apples for caramel apples, again the sweetness of the caramel balancing the tartness of the apple. They resist browning, making them ideal for salads and fruit trays.

Apples have been a component of our agricultural identity since the early 1800s. Wisconsin orchards produce approximately 56 million pounds annually on 7,400 acres in 46 of the state’s 72 counties. Our short growing season and harsh winters contribute to the many challenges associated with managing a productive orchard. Apples are susceptible to numerous fungal and bacterial diseases and require a tremendous amount of labor to maintain and harvest. In my years at the Co-op, I’ve seen a few orchards come and go. Fortunately, we have some dedicated growers who continue to endure and supply us with array of varieties.

Bob and Ellen of Future Fruit have been supplying us with certified organic apples since the early ’90s. They got into the business as a means to supplement their income as artists—Bob as a painter, and Ellen as a dancer. Bob had worked with Northwest growers, and both had a passion for natural foods. An orchard was an extension of their art, a means to educate consumers, provide safe, healthy food, and give something back to the environment.

Future Fruit incorporates aspects of integrated pest management and permaculture into their practices to maintain their 6,000-tree, 32-acre organic orchard of apple, pear, and plum trees. Clover and grasses are planted in the orchard providing organic matter and fertilizer to the trees. Flowers are planted to attract beneficial insects, and fruit varieties are spread throughout the orchard to help minimize the risk of disease.

Look for Future Fruit at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, or head out to the farm and check it out for yourself. They’re located in Ridgeway, just east of Dodgeville.

Bob Wills of Ela Orchard has been supplying the Co-op perhaps longer than any other local farmer. Bob practices integrated pest management and low spray methods to manage risk in the orchard. Look for Bob at the Farmers’ Market, and if you haven’t already, give some of his famous unpasteurized cider a try. It’s incredible!

Both Future Fruit and Ela Orchard supply the Co-op with an assortment of old time apples and a few newer varieties throughout the season. Look for classics like McIntosh, Cortland, Ida Red, Jonathan, Williams’ Pride, Spartan, Cox Orange Pippin, Red Haralson, and Jonagored. Ellen tells me that apples produce an abundant crop every other year, and this is the year for their Honeycrisp. We can’t wait!


  • Choose firm apples that feel solid and heavy when holding in the palm of your hand. Check the apple for bruising. Rub your thumb over the skin; if it wrinkles, it has been in storage too long or has been handled improperly.

  • Apples store best in your refrigerator. Store them away from strong-smelling foods.

  • Apples naturally produce a protective cuticular wax on their skin.

  • Vegetable-based waxes or carnuba wax is applied to apples to replace its natural wax that is often removed in the cleaning process prior to packing.

  • Apples are graded based on their color and size; the deeper the color and the larger the fruit, the higher the grade. USDA grades include: U.S. Extra Fancy, U.S. Fancy, and U.S. No. 1. Washington State has a grading system similar to the USDA grading system; WA Extra Fancy and WA Fancy. WA grades are superior to that of the USDA’s.

  • Apples are high in fiber and pectin.

  • Two pounds of medium-sized apples will make a 9-inch pie.

  • One pound of apples, cored and sliced, measures about 4 1/2 cups.

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