No discussion of Washington State is complete without talking about our most recognizable crop – apples. We know that many of the apples in the stores come from Washington, but did you also know that apples are the largest agricultural produce grown in Washington State?
Over 10 BILLION apples are handpicked in Washington State every year. Yes, I said “handpicked.” Harvesting apples is not done with machines. This is clearly an industry that has a lot of work cut out for it. But, all that work has wonderful rewards. Let’s take a look at the variety of apples from Washington State and how best to enjoy them.
The most popular and recognizable apple is the Red Delicious, which makes up more than 30% of Washington’s apple crop. This is followed by some other favorites which are just as delicious, such as Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious.
Apples in Season
You’ll find apples in the grocery store year round, but the peak seasons vary with each variety and this is when you can find the best deal on them. Gala will be your earliest pick, in August, followed by Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Jonagold in September.
As the weather cools in October, you’ll find several familiar varieties, such as Granny Smith and Fuji, but you’ll also find a few names you may not be used to seeing in the stores if you’re not in the Pacific Northwest. These would include Braeburn, Cameo, and Cripps Pink. If you have an opportunity to sample one of these lesser known varieties, be sure to take advantage. You will be in for a treat.
Even though the only apple native to America is the crab-apple, we haven’t stopped finding and planting new varieties. And we really don’t have much to do to create this splendid array of variety of apples. Part of the incredible diversity in apples is due to the fact that apple seeds never produce exactly the same type of apple. Each seed has unique characteristics making the fruit from each apple tree slightly different.
Even the most recognizable apple variety, the Red Delicious apple, is from a “chance seedling” – meaning this apple was not genetically altered; it just grew from a seed. So, when you go to your local farmers’ market, fruit stand, or grocery store, you can thank providence for the variety of apples you see.
Types of Apples
With all these varieties of apples to choose from, how do you know which to bring home? It all depends on the recipe or flavor you want. Here are a few suggestions when it comes to choosing the right apple.
The ever popular Red Delicious is meant for eating, not for cooking. Enjoy it just washed and sliced or in a salad. Don’t use this apple to make a pie or sauce. It’s sweet and crisp and perfect just as it is.
On the other hand, the Golden Delicious is good for everything. You can eat it as is, or put it in a pie, make sauce, or even freeze it with excellent results. Granny Smith is the other choice that works well for every application, including freezing, unlike other varieties.
The Fuji apple is very sweet and very crisp. Enjoy this apple fresh in a salad, but also in a pie or apple crisp. Honeycrisp apples are crisp, juicy, and sweet, and can be enjoyed in many ways.
As you can see, there are many options when it comes to buying Washington State apples. Your best bet is to ask the seller. Tell them if you are buying apples for a snack, to make sauce, to make a pie, to make fritters, or to freeze. The grower or seller will be your best source of information.
Once you get your apples home, wash them, dry them, and store them in a cool place so they’ll be ready when you are. Follow the advice from the seller and you’ll get the most out of your Washington State apples.
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