|From left to right: Honeycrisp, Fuji, Jonagold, Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious|
Today, there are a lot more varieties of apples easily accessible at the traditional grocery store, upscale food shops and farmers markets. Back in 1989, 25 years ago, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith together accounted for 66 percent of U.S. apple production, but by 2011, their share had fallen to 43 percent (according to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Economic Research Service). Red Delicious in particular has taken a tumble: production of the shiny red apple peaked in 1994, when it accounted for half of all U.S. apples. Seventeen years later, it's still the most popular apple, but accounts for less than a fourth of U.S. production as the availability of varieties such as Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp have steadily risen.
This is good for the consumer. More varieties of apples at the store means there's more to choose from and enjoy. But how do you choose?
I set up a tasting of seven common apple varieties, including the three familiar ones from my youth, plus four that have become popular in recent years: Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp and Jonagold. All of these varieties are readily available at grocery stores such as Safeway and Whole Foods (the two stores where I purchased them). I chose only apples grown in the United States, and five of the varieties (the ones from Whole Foods) came from Washington State, America's #1 apple-growing state.
Chris and I tasted all of them over dinner one night in the order presented below. Here are our thoughts on their flavor and texture, augmented with facts from the U.S. Apple Association (you can read about many other apple varieties on their site as well).
|Red Delicious: beautiful and very sweet, but lacking in flavor.|
|Golden Delicious: crisp with a nice balance of sweet and tart.|
|Granny Smith: very tart and firm.|
|Jonagold: wonderful, juicy flavor and somewhat firm.|
|Gala: lacking in flavor and crispiness.|
|Fuji: firm texture and balanced flavor.|
|Honeycrisp: Juicy and crisp; less sweet than expected.|
Verdict: The Jonagold apple was my overall favorite, a juicy apple with wonderful apple flavor that's nicely balanced between sweet and tart. Texture-wise, Honeycrisp was king, although Golden Delicious was second. All of the apples were good though--even our least favorites had their strong points. Now it's your turn. Tell me what your favorite apples are and whether you agree with my assessment of these varieties.