Gravenstein Apple Season

August is Gravenstein apple season in California.  Gravenstein apples have been a popular apple here in Northern California for a long time.  They are excellent apples for making apple pie and apple sauce, because they have a balanced sweet-tart flavor, and they soften up when cooked. 

This is a picture of Gravenstein apples ripening on a small tree in our yard.  It’s interesting how red the apples are turning.  The apples on my mom’s Gravenstein apple tree are usually yellow with a bit of a red blush.  Hers rarely turn this red. There is a variety of apple tree called Red Gravenstein, but our tree was labeled as a regular Gravenstein.

Apple trees are not self-fertile.  At least two different varieties of apple trees need to be grown within about 100 feet of each other to achieve successful cross-pollination.  Apple trees may not bear apples without proper cross-pollination between two different types of apples.  Sometimes an apple tree that is not cross-pollinated produces very small apples or very few apples.

We also have a small Fuji apple tree and a small Granny Smith apple tree.  Why three apple trees? Gravenstein apple trees have sterile pollen, which means that a Graventstein will not pollenate the blossoms of another apple tree.  Without a third tree, the second tree would not get pollenated.  The second apple tree pollenates the Gravenstein and the third apple tree, and the third apple tree pollenates the second apple tree.  

Most apples ripen in the late summer or fall.  For example, Fuji and Granny Smith apples usually ripen in October into early November.  One of the great things about Gravenstein apples is that they ripen early, a month or two before most apples.  So we are harvesting apples in the summer and in the fall.

August 03 2008 02:13 pm | Apples

8 Responses to “Gravenstein Apple Season”

  1. joan taylor on 11 Apr 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    C ame across your site as I have begun to obsess about the cross pollination of my 3 apple trees now that April is here on Cape Cod. I have the same mix as you–a fuji, a gravenstein, a granny smith. The grav is espaliered to the side of my house on a trellis and in my first year–2008– I harvested 21 apples! I cut a bucket of crab apple branches at a friend’s home, stuck them in front of thetree and hoped for the best. No one at the nursery told me I had to have another tree–which is why my fuji of 3 years has never borne fruit–it is also no where near the grav or the new granny smith. I will bring it a bucket of crabs too this month! The new granny is within striking range of the grav but I am learning that the grav is not a cross pollinator???? Areally big bucket of crab apple branches in blossom equidistant between them seems to be the answer. Do you agree???? The irony is that my family started MacIntosh orchards in Dutchess County, NY in the late 1800’s after arriving from Ireland! The orchard no longer exists so I am reclaiming my roots the hard way–a Mac will be my next tree–they seem a lot less finicky than the 3 we both have!

  2. admin on 11 Apr 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    Joan, I have been advised that a distance of up to 100 feet is usually enough for bees to cross pollinate apples trees. The crab apple branches will definitely help as long as they are blooming at the same time as the apple trees they are intended to cross pollinate. The granny smith will pollinate the gravenstein, but the gravenstein will not pollinate itself or any other kind of apple because its pollen is sterile. Fuji and granny smith apples are usually partially self-fruitful even without another type of apple around. Apples often take 3-5 years to produce any apples. Your Fuji may be unfruitful simply because it is not mature enough. Of course, you can always plant more apples if your yard is big enough or if you want to plant them relatively close together like I am doing. BTW – I am also a descendant of immigrants who came from Ireland in the late 1800s.

  3. joan taylor on 29 Apr 2009 at 8:00 pm #

    Thank you so much for your reply. After several uncommonly warm April days here on Cape Cod the grav is beginning to show its blossoms but not the granny smith or fuji. Time to go to my friend’s yard to assesss the status of the crab apple blossoms. Another question–last year we thinned the tiny forming apples very early in their growth and I harvested 21 gravs and the rabbits enjoyed about 4 on the lowest branches before I applied netting. I am of the mind to not thin this year and let all apples that form grow. This tree is espaliered so all bits of it are easily accessible to me. To thin or not to thin?? Supposedly the apples are smaller if there is no thinning? Also, have you tasted the Jazz apples? They seem to be a tart delicious apple-wonderful flavor even late in the season in the grocery here. May go on my list as another candidate for the home orchard…..

  4. Margaret Fraze on 01 May 2009 at 10:36 am #

    I was interested in the response to Joan Taylor above, but for the opposite reason. I planted a Granny Smith and a Gravenstein next to each other over five years ago. The Granny Smith began budding and producing apples about three years ago; however, the Grav has yet to produce any buds or flowers, even though it appears to be healthy. I live in Northern California, about five miles from an area known for its Gravenstein apples. Any ideas why I can’t get the Gravenstein to bud? Thanks!

  5. admin on 03 May 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    Your Gravenstein may not be flowering for any number of reasons, such as not enough water, not enough nutrients, too much pruning, not enough sunlight, immaturity, etc.

  6. Sondra Appel on 06 Apr 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    I just purchased a dwarf gravenstein apple tree. I was wondering if an ornamental apple or one crabapple would pollinize the tree. I know it would have to be blooming at the same time. But does the crabapple need to be pollinized if the gravenstein can’t do it.

    These are my fav apples for sauce and pies. We had a huge one in my childhood home. My brother and I used to climb in it and pick the delicious apples and eat them right off the tree. Mom and I would can or freeze the applesause. Yum!

  7. Steve on 29 Apr 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    A crabapple tree should be a suitable pollen source for a Gravenstein apple tree. However, the Gravenstein won’t pollinate the crabapple.

  8. Bob on 25 Jun 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    I have a very productive Gravenstein that has been in the ground for 3 years. This year there are at least a dozen pieces of fruit still on the tree that haven’t been molested by insects.
    The cross polenator has been an Anna but that tree has died, probably because I positioned it where there is no relief from intense sunshine, we live in Central Arizona.
    Can someone recommend a suitable cross polinator that requires fewer than 300 chill hours annually to replace the Anna?

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