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Do I need Gravenstein?

Posted by milehighgirl CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 8, 12 at 15:42

I have heard so much about Gravenstein apples, but I have never eaten one or even seen one. I was wondering if it is something that would grow in Colorado. I am hesitant to get an apple that doesn't keep well, and I don't feel like baking pies in the heat of the summer.

We surely do not have a maritime climate here. Often the temperature varies 40 degrees in a single day. Because of the dry climate we seem to have less disease and pest pressure than I have seen others post about.

What makes Gravenstein such an apple icon? Is it something I am missing out on? I currently don't have any summer apples.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Gravenstein is one of the best later Summer apples, and in fact, some will even say it's the best apple all around. What's so great about Gravenstein is that it is sweet, tart, aromatic, fragrant - in brief, it's complex in a sublime way.

Climate wise it's a perfect apple for the West Coast and for mountain climates. The reason being is that it likes a good diurnal temperature fluctuation to develop flavor. Since you're in Colorado, I'd assume you're at some elevation, and if it's not always an inferno during the Summer the way it is this year, you'll get really good Gravensteins.

There are a number of delicious Summer apples to choose from, I just posted a writeup on Cloudforest: http://www.cloudforest.com/cafe/apples/maintaining-log-results-t3229.html.

BTW, just the other day, I commented on the fact that we had 95F at 2PM, and it was 55F by 8PM. That's a solid 40F temperature change in the span of 6 hours, and let me tell you, it makes for some amazing aromatic apples.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

axel_sc,

What a great write-up. I didn't even know Erwin Bauer was a summer apple. I bought it from Cummins before they even had a description listed; I just liked the name. It doesn't seem to be too precocious and I don't think it will bear any time soon.

You say about Alkmene, "the all time best apple I have ever eaten". Would you suggest it over Gravenstein?


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Oh, now that is a tough question. Alkmene is really good, but would I choose it over gravenstein? It depends, I think gravenstein is a better cooker and juicer, so taking those things into account I'd pick a gravenstein over Alkmene. But as a dessert apple, I think Alkmene is better.

Erwin Bauer is a mid-to-late September apple in higher latitudes. I am pretty sure that under normal circumstances, it would probably be late August to early September here, but we have had such a weird year that everything is about 4-6 weeks ahead of schedule.

Incidentally, Alkemene is also listed as a mid Sept apple in Germany, but last year, it ripened in mid August for me. This year it started to ripen in late July. So if you really want to stick with Summer apples, get a gravenstein.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Okay, thank you. I will put it on my list.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

I have fond memories of the Gravenstein apple when growing up in Switzerland. We had two large trees on the farm, it was always a joy to taste the first ripe apple on the tree,..it came ripe right after the Transparent. I sometimes had to pick some to sell but most we juiced up at the neighbors press. One of the two tree is still standing and must be close to 100 years old.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

I've never tasted a Gravenstein, but my father, who's now 79, once told me that Gravenstein is his favorite apple. He grew up in southern New England. I think there used to be a lot of Gravensteins in NE back in the day, but now, not so much.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

The Gravenstein apple used to be big in this area in the days of apple drying and a robust cider industry. Mine are just ready to pick now, and Sonoma county will have their Gravenstein festival soon. I use mine mostly for fresh eating and apple sauce, as they do not keep well, but they are our earliest apple. Al


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

I have a single Gravenstein on g-16 I think, in its fifth leaf trained on a tall spindle system. It's been very vigorous and notably unproductive. I've found the fruit to be more tart than sweet here with a softer consistency than I like.I prefer Zestar, which ripens about the same time. This one is sweeter with as intense a flavor as Gravenstein, crunchier and keeps longer.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

I read and hear about how wonderful Gravenstein apple is
for the West Coast. I found it available at an orchard here in WI and bought a 5 lb bag one fall. Horrible! While they seemed ripe, the flavor did nothing for me.

Did I get a bad apple? Or do Gravensteins prefer the maritime climate of the west coast for best flavor?

I once saw Waltana apples being grown in WI. I heard they
are popular in California. The orchard I stopped at said
they brought wood back from California and grafted the trees. They never did well in our climate. They ripened late and were hard as a rock.

In North Dakota they grow an apple called Hazen. Developed
near Hazen, ND. One September I ate Hazen off a tree in
Burlington, ND. Hard and great flavor! The same variety when grown where I was living in Lake City, MN was horrible. Some years it just turned to mush and the center of the apple rotten before it was ripe.

These are just some examples that not all apple varieties
perform well everywhere. Perhaps someone in Colorado can
advise if Gravenstein performs well there? Maybe best on
the far West side of the state where the peaches are grown?


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Spartan, Waltana is super late and would never do well in higher latitudes, we pick ours in December and January. That's how long it takes for it to ripen. In a short season climate, it will be a rock.

We get horrible McIntosh apples here in California, yet in Oregon, they're delicious. So go figure. It's definitely true that apples are adapted regionally and it's all a matter of finding out what does well.

Now I wouldn't grow a gravenstein in the Southeast including Texas, but in the higher elevation regions of Colorado, I think gravenstein would be delicious.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

As you know,..apples ripen on the outside of tree first, on a very large tree the apples close to the trunk could be at their best two weeks later, ...we can't grow Gravenstein here in the far north but I remember as a kid in Switzerland searching for some apples close to the trunk many day's later and WOW, sooo..juicy!


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Here in Southeastern NY Gravenstein is not so special, IMO, probably because,as Axel mentioned, it likes cool nights when ripening. It can be quite good off the tree but very rapidly becomes mush. Certainly the aromatics are there, but the texture is ordinary even when just picked.

I manage one old Grav that had about an 80' spread when I started managing it 20 years ago. It was the most beautiful apple (and widest spread) I've ever seen, but has since lost two of its major scaffolds and is about half the size and not so pleasingly shaped. I'm sure it's well over 100 years old and I would guess 150. Might have held on to the scaffolds if the owner hadn't installed a sprinkling system that radically changed soil conditions. The old don't tend to like radical change.

I would warn anyone choosing varieties that I find quality doesn't only vary region to region but also soil to soil, especially with the heirlooms. I'm talking about a quality range all the way from sub-par to excellent. Of course, the range of human taste is even greater.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

On Cape Cod my Gravensteins have ripened. They are great off the tree. My kids and I just ate 3 today. They aren't as pretty as last year. I think it's the wheather this year. They are a good start to apple season.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Harvestman, you are indeed correct, apple flavor varies great deal just based on soil types but I think it's correlated to the amount of water available. Most of the German apple books indicate the moisture level required for a specific apple variety. Some tolerate dry, sandy locations, but most require moist loamy soil.

We have an interesting property that is just on the boundary of two soil zones. One is dry, sandy soil, the other is heavier clay type soil with more loam and more water. i have found that flavor matches once I provide plenty of water on the sandier, faster draining soil.

I have found that lack of water and drought conditions are the worst for apples, making them dry, one dimensional, and prevent the aromatics from forming.

i've been struggling with my irrigation system for a long time, I've finally switched to a once a monthly deep watering, which seems to work best in our dry conditions, driving roots deep down where there is a more steady source of water.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Axel, yes the difference in soil types is mostly about soil texture, and here in the humid region that tends to determine water access as a lot of fruit production is non-irrigated.

Usually fruit quality is better in sandy, well drained soils here, although plums get up the brix even in wet soil conditions according to my observation. I haven't noticed that different varieties of apples are affected differently in this regard, but my observations are not as intense as yours on this. I will say that commercial growers seem unanimous that quality improves on relatively dry years- across the board.

However, I think it's a little more complicated than just the balance of water and air. For instance, here, the Baldwin apple seem to be superior on sites where there is some summer shading that dissipates in the fall. In other words, with overhanging branches from another much taller tree on the north side that blocks mid-day sun in mid-summer but stops shading the Baldwin when the sun gets lower in Sept the apples build more sugar than when fully exposed.

I suspect there are lots of other situations like this that apply to fruit quality in home orchards but are never a factor in commercial production in wide open sites.

You and I are able to observe and report what we notice but this is not the same as researched information- not that it isn't useful but I think we need to keep that in mind.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Axel, yes the difference in soil types is mostly about soil texture, and here in the humid region that tends to determine water access as a lot of fruit production is non-irrigated.

Usually fruit quality is better in sandy, well drained soils here, although plums get up the brix even in wet soil conditions according to my observation. I haven't noticed that different varieties of apples are affected differently in this regard, but my observations are not as intense as yours on this. I will say that commercial growers seem unanimous that quality improves on relatively dry years- across the board.

However, I think it's a little more complicated than just the balance of water and air. For instance, here, the Baldwin apple seem to be superior on sites where there is some summer shading that dissipates in the fall. In other words, with overhanging branches from another much taller tree on the north side that blocks mid-day sun in mid-summer but stops shading the Baldwin when the sun gets lower in Sept the apples build more sugar than when fully exposed.

I suspect there are lots of other situations like this that apply to fruit quality in home orchards but are never a factor in commercial production in wide open sites.

You and I are able to observe and report what we notice but this is not the same as researched information- not that it isn't useful but I think we need to keep that in mind.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Harvestman, my experience is the same as yours with certain apple varieties. I have large evergreen oaks at the bottom of my property that provide shade starting mid-day for the last two rows of apples. I figured I would graft all of my Summer apples down there. Well, turns out that was an excellent choice. The quality of the Summer apples I get down in the last two rows are phenomenal.

I also ended up planting my cox orange pippin apple down there as well. As a result, the cox is delayed by about 3 weeks, and is so much better than the coxes I've tasted ripening in full sun during the super hot first half of September.

The bonus on several Summer apples is that they hang on the tree for a bit longer without turning to mush. The BRIX has a chance to go up a little higher while the texture is still prime. Plus there is more moisture.

On the opposite end, I have viking growing in the hottest part of the garden in full sun - big mistake, they turn to mush on most years. I will top work it to other varieties and re-graft Viking in the rows below the oak tree.

One last observation: I also planted some apples beneath the oaks at the top of my property where there is mostly Morning shade and afternoon sun. To my surprise, the trees up there bloom sparingly and don't set much fruit at all. Seems lack of Morning sun has an adverse effect on bloom, but the lack of afternoon sun doesn't affect bloom at all.

What I ended up doing is putting the late blooming varieties at the top, because they're the least affected by the lack of Morning sun. For example, hollow log is a late bloomer and seems to do fine up there.

Delaying bloom and delaying ripening is a really good thing here because the later an apple ripens here, the better it is thanks to colder nights. I've started to experiment with mcintosh to see if I can get it to ripen in October by grafting it into different locations.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Axel, I appreciate your observations- you love your trees and appear to have strong deductive skills which make your commentary valuable.

I've never noticed the contrast in western and eastern exposure as far as fruit set but have always sought morning sun to reduce fungus pressure in our eastern climate. I will now try to see if I find a correlation in the lack of morning sun to poor fruit set. I have so many different sites, if there is a strong connection, I will probably find it.

One last note, the best bearing, highest quality Elephant Heart plum tree I've ever managed was on my own property in a shady spot that only got about 4 hours direct sun a day- missed some early morning and all afternoon sun. It was a reliable cropper that never got pitch pockets in the fruit as happens here to trees in full sun. I've never gotten consistent cropping from another tree on other sites either. Unfortunately, black knot has gotten so bad here I can't grow plum trees in shady spots anymore.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

Yep, you need a Gravenstein. ;)

I am grafting from a tree my great-grandmother planted in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 1905. We moved to northern CA a few years ago and I have had some delightful apples from the small trees. I pollinate with William's Pride and Liberty but the Zestar would be fine too.

They are great heirloom trees and I am waiting for enough to make cider.


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RE: Do I need Gravenstein?

I did order one from Cummins:)


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