In 1811, Russian fur traders are said to have planted a Gravenstein apple tree at their remote Fort Ross along the Sonoma Coast. Their fort didn’t survive long as a trading post, but the seeds from that apple tree have made a lasting mark. Today, Sonoma’s West County is the only place in the United States you can find this incredibly delicious apple variety.
The sweet and tart flavors of the Gravenstein have become symbols of Sonoma County’s rich agricultural heritage. Ripening in late July, this squat, irregularly shaped apple comes in a variety of colors, though it typically has a greenish-yellow background covered with showy, broad red stripes.
This apple is prized for its crisp but tender flesh, sweet-tart juice and intense distinctive aroma that recalls honey, flowers and fruit. Its’s a terrific eating apple and also wonderful in pies and as applesauce.
In 2005, Food USA declared the Gravenstein a heritage food, and every year for the past forty-three, the town of Sebastopol has celebrated its famous apple at the Gravenstein Fair held in August. Fair visitors enjoy live music, arts, crafts, local food, beer and wine, along with everything apple: ciders, pies and fresh apples for munching or baking, and even pie-eating contests. To keep tabs on the fair, check out gravensteinapplefair.com.