Heirloom apple varieties making a comeback at Farmers Market


After almost disappearing, apple varieties that were popular 30 to 40 years ago have been making a comeback. Discerning farmers’ market customers have learned to discriminate between a delightfully sweet or tart heirloom and those that are available in the supermarkets. People have grown weary of uniformly shaped, waxed, generic, and tasteless apples. 

Today there are more than 450 apple growers in the state of California, many of whom have returned to growing heirlooms. Gravenstein apples are the most common heirloom apple, grown mostly in Sebastopol, followed by the heritage Fuji and Pink Lady apples, now thought to be commonly available apples because of being brought back from the brink of extinction.

There are some wonderful heirloom apples offered at your market, varieties you really should try. Rainbow Orchards out of Camino offers quite a few varieties. J&J Ramos Farm from Hughson has a nice selection. Ken’s Top Notch has some lovely apples. Varieties from these farmers range from the more common heirlooms like Pink Lady, Gala, and Fuji apples to the Limbertwig, Jonagold, Chieftain, Heaven Sent, Spitzenberg, and Black Amish. Unique names for distinct and flavorful apples!

This fall, visit your local certified farmers’ market where you’ll find a wide range of these tasty fall fruits and where the farmers who grew and harvested them bring them to market for you to enjoy. They’ll even offer to provide information on which apples would be good for your purpose – baking, eating, or other uses. Try this Apple Cake to get you in the mood for fall!

Apple Raisin Nut Cake

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon 

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups peeled and chopped apples

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix oil, sugar, and eggs. Beat for one minute. Stir in dry ingredients: flour, salt, spices, and baking soda. Stir well, making sure all flour is incorporated. Add apples, nuts, and raisins. Gently blend together. Pour into greased and floured 9×13 pan. Spread evenly.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly.

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