Gravenstein Apple Harvest(s)

Ripe Gravenstein apple.

Ripe Gravensteins in the tree.

Amidst our flurry of activity in the garden from the tomatoes, eggplant, beans, peppers and melons, we suddenly noticed that our Gravenstein apples were ready for harvest. And while we say “ready for harvest” for the Gravensteins, that is a relative term, as the Gravenstein is a “variable harvest” apple. This means, basically, that the apples ripen unevenly, usually over a 2-8 week span. This is good for home use, as we get apples over a month or so, but this is both a blessing and a curse for this excellent variety of apple.

Apple picker, in action.

The apple picker, these are very useful tools.

And the Gravenstein is a very tasty apple, more on the tart side, but certainly sweet enough to eat out of hand, the Gravenstein is an excellent apple for applesauce, cider and pies. In our house we eat them out of hand and primarily make applesauce, the kids (and even the adults) love it. But we will make a few desserts and cocktails with the apples, as well. And none of the apples go to waste, the overripe apples go over the fence to the deer and the any others we don’t use to a nearby horse barn for treats. The horses, apple aficionados that they are, are big fans of the Gravensteins.

Note the variation in color and ripeness. Good for home use, bad for commercial farming.

The Gravenstein apple is a native of Denmark (it’s the “national apple”), but is most associated with Sonoma County in northern California. In the 20th century Sonoma teemed with Gravenstein apple trees, and many American soldiers ate applesauce from those trees. But the delicate (they don’t travel well) and variable nature of the Gravenstein led farmers to move to other varieties of apple, and even more so, grapes. Now the Gravenstein is more of a local symbol than a viable crop and many fear it will disappear from commercial production . There is a great New York Times article on the subject here.

But what makes for a poor commercial crop often makes for good home use, and in a small setting the Gravenstein is an excellent apple. While there are a few days where we will harvest a majority of the apples, many remain on the tree for weeks, ready for picking and eating. In some ways the Gravenstein stores its fruit for you on the tree. And there are few better ways to slow your pulse than to walk up to an apple tree, pick an apple and just take a bite. So while there are limited commercial opportunities for the Gravenstein, we think it will thrive in back yards for as long as people like apples.

Colors that look like they are painted on to the apple.

And finally, this leads us to the apple itself. To us, there are few things more beautiful than the Gravensteins. Their colors look like they are painted on by an expressionist painter. All seem similar, but each apple is unique and beautiful. We never tire of their colors.

Note: Most of today’s photos come from our eldest son, Sam, who helped us while we picked apples. Thanks Sam!

43 thoughts on “Gravenstein Apple Harvest(s)

  1. Love you picking tool … wonderful – my grandma had a massive Gravenstein tree – the best flavored apples I know. Wonderful photos again. In the A-Z challenge I wrote about something very special that we have here in our county – that has to do with a loads of apples – there is the link. Please on the links inside the post … Apple picture is only on Swedish, but the pictures are the most important.

    • Thanks! We added the link…thanks again for sharing.

      The picking tool is great fun, the kids love using it. And they love the apples. Such a great experience for them to simply pick and eat apples when they want…

      • An Apple a day … keeps the doctor away … *smile – liked picking apples too as a kid – now .. I leave it up to others.
        You have a fantastic place … hard work but it gives you so much joy and great food.l

  2. I used cored, peeled and chopped Gravensteins in a “white kimchi” recipe last week! I also met a gal camping who grilled a whole Gravenstein on an outdoor grill until it tasted like apple pie. You just need to make sure you poke a few holes in it or it will explode. 😉 Tis the season! Yummy!

  3. Out of the 100 varieties of apples in our orchard, I always tell everyone that Gravenstein apples make the best apple butter. Have you tried using yours that way?

    • No, but we will now…we are planning on making pear butter so we can do the same with apples! Thanks! And we are very jealous of an orchard with 100 varieties of apples…sigh…

      • I think you will enjoy the apple butter. I’m sure the pear butter will be delicious. It will be interesting to see how many pears I have when we close the cottage in Maine and return to New Hampshire. Porcupines have gotten to the pears the last two years right when they are ready to pick.

  4. What beautiful pictures! The Gravenstein is by far one of our favorite apples. The property we purchased in 2006 is 1/4 acre of what used to be Sullivan Ranch. The only living thing that was here (besides weed and gophers!) was this old, overlooked and under-cared for Gravenstein. We have slowly been pruning and lovingly caring for it with great results. Thank you for visiting my blog ~ I will be following yours too.

    • Thanks! The Gravenstein trees can look kind of worn-down but are still very productive. One of our trees was a bit scraggly, but we pruned and it is in good sun- now it is more productive than our larger, “prettier” tree.

      We like your blog very much (great photos) look forward to reading more…

  5. I think I love you. Apples of any kind are my down fall. I love them! I think if I was there, you would find me laying on my back gazing at the clouds with a full belly of apples. mmm – you’re my new friend. Hogs and Kisses – Bacon

  6. Very familiar with that apple picker! We went to one of those pay-by-the-peck places when we first moved here to NY and went a little overboard having so much fun collecting them. Can’t wait to get out and pick some more this year (usually best late September and after.) Enjoy yours!

  7. The great thing about apples is that there are so many varieties to choose from! Some people prefer sweet while others prefer tart. If you’re going to go apple picking, be sure to find out which varieties are at their ripest during the time that you are there since it varies!

  8. I absolutely love apple picking, or rather, eating the apples I gather! And that apple picker would definitely have been useful. I love apple season, and for the first time last week, I bought some delicious apples at the farmers market.

  9. Definitely some beautiful apples! My grandparents had a Gravenstein tree in their yard – I’ve made many pies with these apples 🙂 PS – have you read Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire? (Also a documentary.) Fascinating history of the apple in the US!

  10. What great shots of such beautiful (and delicious) apples!

    Your apple picker looks genius! I remember affixing an old tin can, lid half-off and bent up, to a long pole as a cherry-picker, but I think your contraption would work much better.

  11. You! You WONDERFULL people! Ive been trying to identify my Apple tree that I have grown up with. My folks planted it when I was 5 and I’m now 55. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this tree and the many years of fruit it has given us. We have canned it, sauced it, baked it, juiced it, enjoyed it, shared it and cared for it. Thank you so much for your detailed and well defined article, because until now we did not know “Hap’s” true ID. We just called her “Hap” short for “happy apple tree”. (Named by my youngest sister, who was born here, she couldn’t say apple when she first began talking) Thank you again. Ps you make me want to hug my tree!

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