Gravenstein—it’s not an apple that is often found in stores.
But most people who live (or have lived as is the case with me) in Sonoma County know all about them. These orchards once dominated the landscape more than wine grapes.
While the origins of how this orb first came to the North Bay are not 100 percent certain, it’s likely they arrived sometime in the 1800s, with Sebastopol’s cooler temps and sandy soil ideal for their proliferation.
This fruit tends to ripen in July, unlike other apples that have a fall harvest. This is why the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair is in August. This last one was the 50th celebration of this iconic fruit.
“Eventually they were shipped nationwide by the trainload and played a major role in Sonoma County’s commerce. In more recent years, Gravenstein production declined significantly due to suburban development, orchard/vineyard conversion, a global over-abundance of apples, and other factors,” according to the county’s tourism agency. “Today, Gravensteins are rebounding in popularity among consumers who are looking for more-tasty, more-local varieties of produce. However, because of their soft skin Gravs are now considered difficult to ship far and wide as raw fruit. So the best place to get Sonoma County Gravensteins is in Sonoma County.”
According to North Coast Organic, “There are only six commercial growers remaining (in Sonoma County) and, together, their crop totals just 6,000 tons of Gravenstein apples a year.”
Gravenstein was declared Denmark’s national apple in 2005. Considering I’m Danish, maybe I’m genetically predisposed to liking Gravenstein.
I picked up a bag at the fair, with the intent of turning them into a pie later this month for my birthday. Homemade apple pie really is the best breakfast.