A Symphony of Apples: The Different Varieties We Grow and Harvest (Its U-pick Season). by Chad Steiner
Apple harvest is upon us! Today, I’m excited to take you on a journey through our orchards as we explore the diversity of apple varieties we grow right here on our farm. Apples are one of the cornerstones of our farming operation, and each variety brings its own unique characters to the grand symphony of harvest. Plus I’ll list them in order of maturity. As we bring new apple varieties to the farm – our aim is to select something with excellent eating quality, storability and we also want to spread out our picking timing. Let’s dive in!
Fun Apple trivia… where do new apple varieties come from? If you’ve taken a “Life Changing” tractor ride with me, you may have heard me describe it. New varieties come to us via pollination. When the apple flowers are open in the spring, the bee’s come along with pollen and voila a new variety is created. Each seed in that apple or any apple you’re eating would be a new variety. In the breeding programs they put big tents over their flowering apple trees so they control what varieties pollen touches the flower. The breeding programs will then take the seeds from that years apples and plant 10,000 or more. They’ll grow them out until they can see fruit and make a judgement if its worth growing it longer. Fun stuff.
Side Note: we went organic with all our farming practices in the apples this year. We’re not certified yet, but no synthetic pesticides were applied to the apples in 2023.
Honeycrisp (U-pick status: still picking great on the farm):
First up, meet the Honeycrisp—a variety renowned for its explosive crunch and well-balanced sweetness. Originating from the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program, we chose the Honeycrisp for its exceptional flavor and texture. These beauties typically ripen in early September and are perfect for snacking or adding a fresh twist to your apple pies. We’ve still got Honeycrisp available from Champion Orchards – we long ago picked our early honeycrisp called Premier (a sport variety out of Pennsylvania). Fun fact: I had the opportunity to meet with David Bedford the breeder of Honeycrisp. He has told the story hundreds of times – but honeycrisp was an accident. It was meant to go to the discard pile until local growers talked him into keeping it. The Honeycrisp was once patented, and royalties from the sales helped fund further apple research!
Gala (U-pick status: past its peak, still available but starting to pass peak crispiness)
Next in line is the Gala apple, known for its mild sweetness and floral aroma. These apples boast a fine texture and are excellent for a variety of culinary pursuits, whether you’re throwing together a quick salad or making homemade apple sauce. Gala apples are usually ready to be picked in late August to early September. If you’re looking for ideal pairings, try them with a sharp cheddar cheese—the combination is really great! Fun fact: the Gala apple originated out of New Zealand. It was brought to the United States in the 1970’s. Today it is Washington State’s largest apple crop.
Golden Delicious (U-pick status: totally amazing. Perfect ripeness. One of my favorite apples off of the tree)
The Golden Delicious—a classic favorite with a rich history. It was discovered as a chance seedling in the early 1900’s in West Virginia. With its mild, sweet flavor and beautiful golden hue, this variety is a household name. Our Golden Delicious apples are usually ready for harvest from late September through early October. What sets them apart is their incredible versatility—they’re equally delicious whether consumed fresh, baked into pies, or even juiced. I feel like the acidity in the Chelan Valley Goldens is unique – something truly special.
EverCrisp® (U-pick status: not quite ripe, but almost there. Look for them starting September 30th or during the week before)
Introducing the EverCrisp®—a relatively new addition to the apple family, born from the union of Honeycrisp and Fuji apples. It was developed in the Midwest Apple Improvement Program (MAIA). We’re a member of this group and have some other amazing apples of theirs we’re not quite ready to talk about yet. Ask me if you’re here in the next couple weeks and we can share. EverCrisp® brings the best of both Fuji & Honeycrisp: the crunch of a Honeycrisp and the sweet-tartness of a Fuji. EverCrisp® apples are usually harvested in late October and are known for their remarkably long storage life. If you’re someone who likes to enjoy crisp apples year-round, this variety is a true gem.
Cosmic Crisp® (U-pick status: only available already picked. We did graft some Cosmic Crisp® onto the farm, but the trees are still to young – we do however grow them down the road and bring them to sell at the farm)
A Washington State and Washington State University original. Cosmic Crisp® was developed by Kate Evans and Bruce Barrett – both working for WSU. This apple has taken the world by storm. A cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp – it boasts a magical juicy crunch along with great flavor. Its storage ability is exceptional. Which for the u-picker is a total bonus. Another feature the apple has is its ability to turn brown less than other apples (not something that can be advertised, but you might experience) – so like Honeycrisp it can be a great addition to kids school lunches. Wrap all these features up into a gorgeous red color with white lenticels or dots and it looks like the Cosmos. We were one of the first to plant Cosmic Crisp® in the state. As a grower its nice because it self thins. I had the opportunity to work with and learn a lot from both breeders of Cosmic Crisp® and then grow hundreds of thousands of trees for growers all over the state. Fro now it’s a Washington State exclusive. So, come enjoy some Cosmic Crisp® this fall – we’ll keep you posted when we’ve got them ready.
Red Delicious (U-pick status: it will be ready in about 7-10 days.)
Last but not least, we present the iconic Red Delicious. Known for its deep red skin and elongated shape, this apple has been a staple in American orchards for over a century. The Red Delicious usually graces us with its readiness in late September and is best enjoyed fresh, or in salads and juices.
Fuji (U-pick status: it will be ready in 2-3 weeks. Still early for Fuji)
A variety for those who love sweetness and a unique texture. The Fuji apple originated in Japan before it was brought to the United States. For some of our family this is one of their favorite. Because its lower on acidity it tastes sweeter. I’d say this is all around still a favorite for folks.
We have a small amount of a couple other varieties. Some from the MAIA and some from an Italian breeding program. Please ask us if you’re interested. They’re really great. One is kind of a mix between granny and golden, another has Pink Lady® in its lineage. We’ve also got some really cool varieties called Sweet Zinger® and Ludacrisp®.
So there you have it—an overview of the apple varieties we grow on the farm, each with its own distinctive attributes, waiting to be savored and celebrated. We invite you to experience these flavors firsthand by visiting our farm, where you can indulge in the joy of picking your very own apples straight from the tree. We’re open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm through October.
We hope this blog post has sparked your curiosity and that you’re now even more excited about apple season as we are. Until next time, stay crisp and keep munching everyone!