The recently revived heirloom Gravenstein apple is one of California's most beloved varieties. Once nearly lost, Gravensteins in Sonoma -- where they flourished -- were cleared for wine grapes and milder-flavored apples that were easier to harvest and lasted longer in storage. Thanks to Slow Food and a few farmers, Gravensteins are making a modest comeback.
They're still hard to come by. Not many show up even in Southern California. The FruitGuys, a fruit delivery service, now is shipping Gravenstein apples nationwide during its brief season in early August. So you can order a box and start baking Gravenstein apple pies anywhere in the U.S. A box of 18 apples is $35; organic apples are $40 (plus shipping).
It's one of the best apples for pies -- a balance of sweet and tart that's ideal for baking. And its distinctive floral, fruity flavor (some compare its complexity to white wine) intensifies when made into sauce, juice or vinegar.
The FruitGuys also are donating 17% of the price of the box to the Sonoma County farmers who produce the Gravenstein.