Ark of Taste
Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple
The sweet and tart flavors of the Gravenstein Apple are symbols of Sonoma County’s historical agricultural traditions. The Gravenstein, which was first planted in Sonoma County in 1811 by Russian trappers, ripens in late Julymaking it one of the first apples in North America ready for market. It is a squat, irregularly shaped apple with a very short stem that comes in a variety of colors; it usually has a greenish yellow background covered with broad red stripes. The Gravenstein is known for its all-purpose versatility as a terrific eating, sauce and pie apple. The apple has a crisp and juicy texture and a flavor that is aromatic and full of old-fashioned, sweet and tart flavor.
Gravensteins are in danger of becoming broadly extinct because of many reasons, the most observable of which is their difficulty to harvest. The apples have short stems and the trees produce ripe apples at different times throughout the harvest season. They are also extremely delicate and perishable. As a result of these complications, the Gravenstein market often falls short to the Red Delicious. This fruit is also losing out because of an alarming loss of land, as many orchards are being converted to vineyards or rural estates. During the past six decades, Sonoma County’s Gravenstein orchards have declined by almost 7,000 acres and are currently down to 960 acres. There are only six commercial growers remaining in Sonoma County. Together, their crop totals 15,000 tons of Gravenstein Apples a year.
Production in Sonoma County is now only a tiny fraction of its historic high levels, and continues to diminish as small farmers struggle to market their heirloom fruit. The Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple Presidium formed to promote and protect the farmers who grow these delicious apples.