Summer has fallen, giving way to… well, fall. But it’s not just the air that’s getting crisper. It’s apple season and, while most varieties are available year-round, now is the time when the sugary, tangy, crunchy fruit is harvested. There are over 100 apple varieties grown commercially in the North America representing a whole host of shapes, color schemes, textures and flavor profiles. With so much choice, picking can be paralyzing.
So here are 10 of the most common varieties so whether you’re picking them from the orchard or the produce aisle, you’ll know what to expect in terms of taste as well as how best to enjoy them.
Originally known as the Hawkeye, this is the most popular, most maligned, most ironically named of all apple varieties in the US.
Flavor profile: After generations of breeding for longer shelf life and cosmetic stability—call it vanity ripeness—the flavor has largely been cultivated out of the Red Delicious. It now has thick skin, a one-note sweet flavor, and an often crumbly texture.
Where it’s grown: Just about everywhere.
Best enjoyed: Straight out of the silo. Red Delicious apples are not regarded for their use in baking.
This is what you expect to get when you bite into a Red Delicious.
Flavor profile: With a soft skin and softer flesh, the McIntosh strikes a level balance between sweet and acidic.
Where it’s grown: Throughout the northeastern and upper Great Lakes states and eastern Canada.
Best enjoyed: Raw, in fruit salad, or sauced. McIntosh apples typically collapse when baked.
Golden (or Yellow) Delicious
Considered an all-purpose apple, the Golden Delicious—along with Red Delicious (no relation)—is the one most commonly found in 42-pound bags sold for five dollars at the grocery store.
Flavor profile: Mild and sweet, the flesh is juicy, but taste-wise isn’t all that different from the Red Delicious.
Where it’s grown: In most regions of the country.
Best enjoyed: Pick your poison. It works whole, chopped into salad, or baked into desserts.
This New Zealand breed has gained popularity in the last 15 years. It’s a cross between a Kidd’s Orange Red and a Golden Delicious apple (assuming you’re up on apple husbandry).
Flavor profile: With pinkish-orange striping over a gold base, its skin is thin, concealing a crisp and juicy flesh that’s fragrant and fairly sweet.
Where it’s grown: All but the southernmost points of the lower 48.
Best enjoyed: Raw, juiced, or in salads.
Neon green and as squat as a five-foot bodybuilder, this is probably the most readily-recognized of all apple varieties.
Flavor profile: If you’re into tartness, this bitter old bird is your go-to. Its crisp, juicy flesh, however, does sweeten with storage.
Where it’s grown: Originally cultivated in Australia, it’s harvested stateside below the Mason-Dixon Line, and is available year-round.
Best enjoyed: Raw, in pies, or in salads where its tartness can be offset. Granny Smiths work especially well with nut butters.
The Fuji was created in Japan (where it’s still the most popular variety) and is a cross between two American varieties (Red Delicious and Ralls Genet).
Flavor profile: Dense, crisp and generally regarded the sweetest of all varieties.
Where it’s grown: It wasn’t introduced here until the 1980s, but there are now more Fuji apples produced in all but the northern- and southernmost parts of the US than in Japan.
Best enjoyed: Raw, chopped into salads, or baked into pie.
Apple snobs can’t gush enough about how this variety was discovered—as opposed to bred—in New Zealand. Its probable parents are the Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith.
Flavor profile: Thin-skinned Braeburns boast textbook apple flavor and balance sweet and tart along with faint notes of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Where it’s grown: Just about anywhere on the mainland except the northernmost parts of the Midwest and New England.
Best enjoyed: Raw, but it’s also known to juice very little during baking.
This brand name for the Cripps Pink variety applies to apples grown under specific license, dictating a rigid sugar-to-acid ratio, among other traits. Those that don’t qualify are sold as Cripps.
Flavor profile: A cross between the Golden Delicious and Lady Williams, the Pink Lady is firm and crunchy with a tart flavor that finishes sweetly.
Where it’s grown: In America, it’s primarily grown in Washington and California.
Best enjoyed: Raw, in salads, baked in pies, and sliced onto cheeseboards.
The product of efforts to develop cold-weather apples, the honeycrisp is the official state fruit of Minnesota.
Flavor profile: Keeps things simple with a light overall flavor profile that’s more sweet than tart. It’s also juicy and moderately crunchy.
Where it’s grown: The northern Great Lakes and New England. They’re actually better a week or so after removal from cold storage, making the time when you buy them the time that’s best to enjoy them.
Best enjoyed: Hardy and versatile, honeycrisps are up to any task you put them up against
And by the way, this is one of my favorite treats during this time of year. They’re more expensive than all of the others, however, well worth it
Introduced in—where else—New York in the 1960s, it takes a lot to bruise this cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh varieties despite its thin skin.
Flavor profile: Retaining the sweetness of the Red Delicious and the tartness of the Mac, this is a crisp, juicy everyman’s apple.
Where it’s grown: Mostly in the Northeast and upper Midwestern states.
Best enjoyed: Raw, cooked (it’s better for this than most), chopped into salads, and in lunchboxes.