Pennsylvania orchards boast nearly 100 different apples varieties. With so many delicious options it’s easy to find one pleasing to the palate. Often, apples are simply described as green apple varieties or red apple varieties. But, there are many golden yellow and bi-color apples too. Most importantly, what makes an apple unique is much more complex than its exterior skin.
Each apple variety has a number of unique characteristics that define it. An apple’s flavor, crispness, juiciness, flesh texture, skin thickness and acidity set it apart from other varieties.
Some apple varieties like the Stayman have thicker outer skins. If a thinner-skinned variety is your preference, the McIntosh fits the bill. But it’s not just the skin that determines the bite and crunch of an apple. The inner flesh of each apple variety varies as well. Some varieties have very firm, clean breaking flesh that is less juicy while others have creamy, super juicy inner flesh. Even the inner color of an apple varies among varieties. A bite into a Cortland reveals a crispy, bright white flesh. Bite into a Cameo and you’ll discover a dense, creamy yellow interior.
Of course, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of an apple is its flavor profile, which is far more complex than sweet or tart. From the sweetest Fuji to the mouth-puckering Granny Smith, there is a favorite apple variety for everyone. Some apples are sweet with only hints of tartness, like the Cameo, which has notes of honey and citrus. A Pink Lady has a crunchy, tangy bite that is effervescent. The ever-popular Honeycrisp is becoming more in-demand because of its delicate balance of sweet and tart and complimented by its soft honey flavor. A Jonagold starts with a rich sweetness and finishes with a faint, but refreshing tartness.
An apple varieties identity doesn’t end with its physical description. Certain apple varieties are better suited for different uses. With the just the right amount of sweetness, Ginger Gold and Golden Delicious apples are favorites among bakers. Honeycrisp and Fuji are excellent options for no-sugar added applesauce, while the McIntosh boils into a sauce with a beautiful blush color. Red Delicious delivers when it comes to fresh snacking.
It’s not too difficult to determine how to pick the right apples for any situation. Consider the following guidelines:
Texture. The texture of snacking apples is typically firm and solid, rather than too soft. However, some snacking apples have a rather soft interior, such as Red Delicious varieties. Try a few and see which appeal to your particular senses. If you want a good apple for baking, find one with enough substance so it doesn’t fall apart. Heat breaks down the apple, so reach for types that will keep their shape in the oven, like Golden Delicious, Pink Lady and Northern Spy apples. If you want to prepare applesauce, consider Braeburn, Cortland and Rome.
Taste. An apple doesn’t have to taste amazing right off the tree to become a cook’s dream ingredient. In fact, many apples used for baking and cooking, like Braeburns and Cortlands, are typically not found in kids’ lunchboxes. This doesn’t mean their flavor is limited. It simply means they have a better place in the kitchen, such as in sauces. In general, snacking apples will be tangy, tart and/or sweet, depending upon your taste preferences. Baking apples contain more starch and are heavier in flavor, which helps hold them together in pies and tarts. Sauce apples have less starch and break down quickly when stirred in the pan.
Availability. Apples are available throughout the year, especially in PA, but you’re likely to find them on display in huge numbers during the fall. Apples come to the marketplace in early September and hit their peak in October, which is Apple Month. You may find varieties like Summer Rambo and Gingergold in the middle of the hottest months of the year. The last types of apples available to Pennsylvanians are Pink Lady and Granny Smith.
Thanks to PA’s climate and the availability of apples at orchards and farmer’s markets, you can indulge in apple buying throughout harvest times and beyond. If you want to try some new recipes or novel ways to use apples, consider the following:
Bake homemade apple chips. You’ve probably seen them in the store, but you can make them for much less than you would pay for the commercial types.
Add them to cereal. Add apples along with other fruits as a sweet, natural topping for your high-fiber, low-fat cereal.
Mix them with yogurt. Yogurt is a healthy snack alternative to other sweets, so mix in a few apples and a drizzle of honey for sweetness.
Juice them. If you have a juicer, add some apples to your morning juices. They’re a great complement to Pennsylvania veggies that might not have a sweet taste.
Add them to sandwiches and wraps. If your turkey and provolone wrap needs a little oomph, slice up a Granny Smith or Pink Lady and add a little crunch and texture to your noontime meal.
As you get more creative with apples, you’ll find there are many opportunities to use them throughout the day. From your oatmeal to your ice cream, you can always add a touch of apple! Best of all, you’ll quickly discover that apples’ high fiber content creates a nice sense of fullness and keeps you from turning to unhealthy alternatives. Apples can also help reduce cravings if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight.
So, whether you enjoy the sweetest apples varieties like the Gala with its vanilla-like flavor or prefer the fizzy finish of a Pink Lady, you’re bound to find a Pennsylvania apple variety—or varieties–that you love. With so many options, we encourage you to venture out of your varietal comfort zone and try different Pennsylvania apples. Get started by learning more by with our apple varieties list.
Embarking on a tasting journey is a great excuse to pick up some ‘new to you’ apple varieties at your local farm market or grocer!
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