Category Archives: Types of Apples

What is the Best Eating Apple?

We get asked this question a lot: “What is the best apple for eating.”

Well, the reason there are so many apple varieties today (7,500 worldwide) is because everybody’s taste is different. Also keep in mind that different apple varieties are better for different things. Such as, the Macintosh is best for pies because of its flavor and firmness. We will try and highlight the most popular, and our favorite, along with a few other varieties for different tastebuds.

Red Delicious, Rome Apples, Golden Delicious Are the Bottom of the Barrel.

Europeans have a different idea of what makes a good-tasting apple than Americans do. Americans are so accustomed to sugary foods that the majority of them also prefer the sweetest apple variety which is Red Delicious. The most commercialized apple in the U.S at one time also known as Red Chief Red Delicious, it has seen its day. There are many variations of the Red Delicious such as the Red Rome, Red Romance.

If you are any kind of apple connoisseur at all, you would probably believe, as we do, that the Red Delicious is actually the worst-tasting apple variety ever created. It is usually always mushy, mealy and lacks any real flavor. Often the skin can be downright bitter and tasteless. Red Delicious was created specifically to satisfy the commercial food industry’s desire for sweeter foods, but as an apple grower, the person who invented the Red Delicious apple should consider it a huge failure.

In the 1980s, ‘Red Delicious’ represented three-quarters of the harvest in Washington State. A decade later, their heavy reliance on ‘Red Delicious’ almost pushed Washington state’s apple industry “to the edge” of collapse. In 2000, Congress approved and President Bill Clinton signed a bill to bail out the apple industry, after apple growers had lost $760 million since 1997.  By 2000, the Red Delicious apple made up less than one half of the Washington state output, and in 2003, the crop had shrunk to 37 percent of the state’s harvest, which totaled 103 million boxes. Although Red Delicious still remained the single largest variety produced in the state in 2005, others varieties have grown in popularity in the U.S, notably the ‘Fuji’ and ‘Gala’ and now the Golden Delicious; all which have a better flavor than Red Delicious.

Fuji, Gala, Braeburn, Jonathan, Honey Crisp Apples Are at Least Crisp.

Europeans like apples with some tartness, some sweetness, some good flavor, and definitely crisp. The commercial varieties the European consumer usually chooses are Fuji or Gala, however, while we will give Fujis and Braeburns credit for being good “sweet” eating apples, there is a great deal of variance with the Gala varieties. They can also often be mushy and tasteless, but yes, sweet. However, these varieties still pale in flavor to some of the heirloom apple varieties that are considered less popular only because the commercial apple industry does not supply them to store.

apple on tree closeupOur Favorite Eating Apples.

If you don’t mind a little bit of tartness in an apple, you will find more wonderful flavors in many other varieties.

The Pink Lady has an amazing blend of sweet, sassy goodness that cannot be rivaled in our opinion. Although is is not considered one of the sweetest apples, it is our favorite hands down for it’s intricate and complex flavor that reveals itself in a gradual release as you eat it. Even thought is has this complex flavoring it is still a relatively sweet apple just the same. Always crisp with just a slightly pink blush to the flesh. Our number one favorite for many products as well as eating right off the tree. Many people consider the Pink Lady apple to be the champagne of apples and the best dessert apple.

Winesap is a more sophisticated version of a Red Delicious in our opinion. While very similar to a Delicious apple, the Winesap still has enough individuality to make it much more flavorful than a Red Delicious and crisper. Akin to a cross between a Macintosh and a Delicious.

Cox Orange Pippin is similar to the Gala apple variety but never fails to be crisper than Gala and with a bit more robust flavor. Some nursery suppliers are now calling the Orange Pippin and “antique” apple because it originated in old England in 1825.

Finding any of our favorite varieties, or Europe’s “Old English” favorites, in stores is difficult these days. Due to it’s high ranking among apple enthusiasts, there are a great many Pink Lady imposters on the market. Although this variety is starting to make a big comeback, true Pink Lady cultivars were almost extinct due to the lack of interest in them a few decades ago. So finding a true Pink Lady apple takes really knowing what to look for in appearance and taste. Unfortunately, due to crossing it with so many other varieties to try and replicate it when the supply of true root stock is limited, you will be hard-pressed to find a true Pink Lady in the stores.

Granny Smith and Sour Apples.

A recent study revealed that Granny Smiths are the best apples to help you lose weight. That is one reason to eat them. There are some people who love the tartness of a good green apple. Newer variations of the Granny have come out to tone down the tartness a bit in some sour apples. They are not as green with a slightly yellow tinge to the skin. However, you will rarely find the more mild sours in your local supermarket either. Our Grannys have a one-of-a-kind flavor since they are pollinated with the other varieties in our orchard. They are sour with an sweet spicey after taste. If you like green apples, you will love these.

There are new varieties of apples being created constantly. You may notice that the varieties in the stores change their names every couple of year. Many of them are the same apples but just given a new name  to make them seem new and different. The best apples will always come from an older orchard that does not grow apples for the commercial grocery industry. Until Americans get off the sugar kick and realize sweet is not better, develop their tastes a bit more, you will not find a really good apple in the grocery stores. A good apple should have a sophisticated flavor, and not be all about tasteless sugar and mushy textures.

And now I’m sure you want to know which are the best pie apples. Right? See our post on pie apples.

Why You Should Eat Those Sour Granny Smith Apples

Which Apple is a Granny.

Even if you are not an apple variety expert, most of us know which one is a Granny Smith apple. They are the green ones that are sour enough to make most people pucker. My grandfather used to eat them after sprinkling a little salt on them and he got me hooked on this odd habit when I was a kid. Somehow, the salt almost seems to cut the puckering sourness, which is probably why the old-timers ate them that way.

You either like sour, tart foods or you don’t, but even if you don’t, you may want to reconsider giving this emerald gem another try. To some apple eaters, this is their favorite variety, and now they have another reason to eat the sourest of the apple varieties.

Recent Research on Apples and Obesity.

In a study published in the journal Food Chemistry in 2014, a team of researchers analyzed how the bioactive compounds of seven different varieties of apples – Granny Smith, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Red Delicious – affected the good gut bacteria of diet-induced obese mice.

granny smith apples slicedThe researchers found that, compared with all other apple varieties, Granny Smiths appeared to have the most beneficial effect on good gut bacteria. They suggest that their findings may lead to strategies that prevent obesity and its associated disorders.

This goes along with the recent popular trend of consuming apple cider vinegar to improve gut health as well. Being a fermented product of the apple industry makes apple cider vinegar (ACV) extremely beneficial for the stomach.

So don’t wince and scurry passed those green apples in the markets. If you just can’t get over the tartness, try my Grandfather’s trick of sprinkling them with a little salt before every bite. It may prove well worth it.

Do we sell Grannys at Bluebird Orchards? You bet we do. Available this fall harvest season.

To read more apple health benefits, click here.

History of Apple Cider

Apple Cider – A History

Apple cider has quite a history in the United States. The first apple trees made it to Boston in 1623 and they were widely planted by the early 1800’s. Cider, hard cider in those days, was a drink from the old country which quickly established itself here in the 18th and 19th centuries. Before the development of preservative techniques, fresh cider rapidly and naturally fermented into hard cider. This was considered a way to “store” your apples after season being thought of as a safe and family drink. In fact, cider was regarded as safer than drinking water, due to the lack of effective water treatment. Presidents like John Adams popularized the health benefits of cider as it became the drink of choice for early Americans.

In the mid-1800’s, cider production began to decline due in part to urbanization, the introduction of beer and the temperance movement. In 1899, 55 million gallons were produced which by 1915 or so was down to 13 million gallons; and then in 1919, production declined even further as prohibition was the law of the land.

Since the apple varieties used to make “hard” cider were not suitable for making a “fresh” cider, many orchards converted to sweeter cultivars, actually taking out or burning their cider trees. When prohibition ended, the damage was irreversible to the hard cider industry, as the trees were gone and new plantings would take years to establish.

During the mid-1900’s, many Wisconsin apple growers produced “fresh” cider. Most orchards and many homeowners had cidermills that would turn out raw cider in the Fall of the year.

In the 1990’s, new FDA rules called for the pasteurization of any cider not sold directly from the orchard that pressed it to the final consumer. Plus, any cider sold direct had to carry a warning label that the product may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in those with a compromised immune system. This was another hit to the apple cider industry, causing many producers – including Wisconsin apple growers — to get out of the cider business.

But, this is not the end of the story! Nationally, in the last 10 years, cider has begun making a comeback. In 2004, national hard cider production was reported at 4.25 million gallons and by 2011, that had more than doubled to 9.2 million gallons! Euromonitor expects U.S. cider sales to grow 10.6 percent on average, or 65 percent overall, from 2011 to 2016, with beer as a whole down 1 percent.

In 2013, it was reported that the United States had 202 cideries, coming second after the United Kingdom with 300.

Wisconsin has seen similar trends. In the last ten years, nine cideries have been established producing hard cider in Wisconsin and more are starting up. They crisscross the state being located in Bayfield, Burlington, Stockholm and Ellison Bay as well as places in between. It is evident that hard cider is a developing industry in the state.
On the fresh cider front, the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association represents 170 commercial apple growers from across the state. In 2012, of those reporting, 53 indicated that they sold cider. Of that, 50% indicated they sold “natural” (raw) cider and 50% indicated they sold pasteurized cider. Some sold both.
Provided by the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association.

Apple Facts

These apple facts are from the Wisconsin Apple Grower’s Association:

A Bushel of Facts about Wisconsin Apples:

FOR YOUR HEALTH

  • Antioxidants, especially quercetin, in apples and apple products play an essential role in reducing risks of prevalent diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
  • Apple consumption increases the number of good gut bacteria.
  • Eating one apple a day for four weeks lowered blood levels of oxidized LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” by 40%.
  • Ursolic acid, a natural compound found in the apple’s skin, may prevent muscle wasting that can result from aging or illness.
  • Pectin in apples is a good source of soluble fiber.

 APPLE TIPS

  • Store small quantities in your refrigerator, in plastic bags in the crisper–between 34 and 40 degrees. Don’t allow them to freeze. apples can absorb odors from other foods, keeping apples in plastic bags prevents this and helps apples retain their own moisture.
  • Apples ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than if they were refrigerated. One or two days sitting on a counter top and the fresh crunch of your apple is lost forever.
  • Lemon juice helps prevent apple discoloration. Sprinkle a little lemon juice on sliced apples before adding to salads.

Apple Varieties and Best Apples for Cider

Many people ask us what we do during the winter months after the harvest season is over. Well….we work on next year’s harvest. No really. Since this is the first winter at our orchard reclamation project, we are spending a great deal of time this fall trimming trees and restoring them to their former glory. Bluebird Orchards has mostly old heirloom variety apples that make very tasty apple cider and vinegars. You cannot make good apple cider from the commercial apples in grocery stores. They just have no flavor. And in my opinion, there isn’t a store-bought apple around that has the flavor of the old varieties. I’m talking about the 50 to 100 year old varieties like we have in our orchard, and Europeans would agree with me.

apple varieties at our orchard

Apple Varieties We Carry:

All of our apples are descendants from prized heirloom apples; some of European ancestry. Our apple orchard is over 80 years old, and these flavorful, crisp, rich apples cannot be found in any store.

Europeans were raised on apple varieties far less sweet than we are used to here in the United States. In Europe, they prefer a crisp, sassy, flavorful apple for eating; something akin to our orchard’s Pink Lady variety.

Cox Orange Pippin: Gourmets regard this delectable, striped, orange-red beauty as one of the finest apples of all. Classic English variety is firm, crisp, juicy and richly aromatic, with spicy hints. Medium-sized fruits are perfect dessert apples, and the best choice for homemade apple cider. Orange Pippin, or just called Cox in England, is the classic English apple. The tree was discovered as a chance seedling and has inspired apple lovers ever since. Fruit has a yellow skin with an orange-red blush. Complex flavor hints of orange and mango. Superb fresh and in pies, sauces, or ciders. Antique variety.

The pink lady is the perfect combination of zesty flavor followed by a subtle sweetness that sneaks up on you.  Then a wave of fruity flavor hits your tastebuds, a deep, rich taste not found in store apples whatsoever. Americans have gotten accustomed to apples with a high sugar content and little flavor such as red delicious. Stop by our orchard and try one of our 80-year-old heirloom apples during or after harvest. Or sample any of our orchard products and you will immediately taste the difference.

Macintosh: Probably the most popular pie apple of all time along with Granny Smith. Macs are a bit tart but not as sour as a Granny. They are also very firm – which makes them good for cooking – and have a slight hint of wine flavor toward the end. Macs keep well. Macintosh apples are easy to identify with their mostly red color but large distinct green blotches usually around the top. White flesh and firm texture that’s more sour than most red apples.

Liberty: Dark red skins, almost like a black apple such as Kingston, with white flesh. Liberty is a good all-around apple you can eat or cook. More flavor than a delicious but still more on the mild / sweet side compared to some of the antique varieties than have more tannins.

Granny Smith / Newtown Pippin: As you probably know, the green apples are the tartest of all the apple varieties. My Grandfather used to love to eat granny smiths with salt. Go figure. They can make a tasty apple pie or tart snack. Our green apples are a little more mild Granny Smiths due to being pollinated with our other apple varieties. Not the best looking apple, as they often have brownish or grayish spots, our greens are an ancient heirloom variety called Newtown Pippin also known as Albermarle. An American apple originating in the late 17th or early 18th century, The Newtown Pippin is typically light green, sometimes with a yellow tinge and sometimes with a molted gray spotting that almost looks like mildew but isn’t. It is often russeted around the stem. The flesh is yellow and crisp. The flavor is complex and somewhat tart, and requires storage to develop properly and has to be allowed to reach the right ripeness; some sources ascribe to it a piney aroma. Green and yellow varieties are sometimes distinguished but it is not clear that they are in fact distinct cultivars. It is one of the best keeping apples. If you like a tart apple but Granny Smith is often too tart, give this heirloom green variety a try.

Gala: Yes, we have a couple galas just for eating purposes. Gala apples are a little smaller and so make a good snack apple. Since ours are pollinated with the old varieties, they tend to have more flavor than supermarket galas. Mild, sweet apple best for just eating.

Best Apples for Making Apple Cider:

We made our first batch of homemade apple cider vinegar this fall and it is true what they say: homemade apple cider vinegar is far superior tasting than the commercial stuff. Of course, our apple cider and apple cider vinegar are organic and we use organic honey in all our products as well, which gives everything a unique-to-only-Bluebird-Orchards taste. Organic apple products are very good for your digestion. The pectin in apples helps to cleanse the bowels and keep a person regular. That’s why the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” was started.

We have a dark red crab apple I believe will make a very tasty hard cider. This year we made our cider from Pink Lady apples and everyone who tried it said it was the best they ever had. It is very tasteful, with strong apple flavors. My concern is that Americans might find it a bit too strong, so we are going to also make a batch from a sweeter apple to satisfy American tastebuds.