The recently revived heirloom Gravenstein apple is one of California's most beloved varieties. Once nearly lost, Gravensteins in Sonoma -- where they flourished -- were cleared for wine grapes and milder-flavored apples that were easier to harvest and lasted longer in storage. Thanks to Slow Food and a few farmers, Gravensteins are making a modest comeback.
They're still hard to come by. Not many show up even in Southern California. The FruitGuys, a fruit delivery service, now is shipping Gravenstein apples nationwide during its brief season in early August. So you can order a box and start baking Gravenstein apple pies anywhere in the U.S. A box of 18 apples is $35; organic apples are $40 (plus shipping).
It's one of the best apples for pies -- a balance of sweet and tart that's ideal for baking. And its distinctive floral, fruity flavor (some compare its complexity to white wine) intensifies when made into sauce, juice or vinegar.
The FruitGuys also are donating 17% of the price of the box to the Sonoma County farmers who produce the Gravenstein.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 19, Paul Kolling of Nana Mae’s Organics, who tends 75 acres of Gravensteins in Sebastopol, will be selling at the Mar Vista farmers market, according to a recent article in The Times by David Karp.
Karp says the few local growers of Gravenstein apples include Yingst Ranch at Pasadena and Hollywood, Cirone at Santa Monica on Saturday, and Windrose at Santa Monica on Wednesday. And Whole Foods will offer Lee Walker's Gravensteins at select stores.