Celebrating the Gravenstein & Denman Island Apple Fest 2019

Celebrating the Gravenstein & Denman Island Apple Fest 2019

From the Denman Island Growers & Producers Alliance:

As apple season gets underway here on Denman Island, Gravensteins are one of the first to pick. It’s an excellent choice for juice, apple chips, and baking, plus that crunchy, real-apple flavour makes it truly delicious straight from the tree! Gravenstein apples are a renowned heritage apple, and for good reason.


The Gravenstein is one of the oldest recorded trees, and it’s exact origin varies depending on the source you’re reading. What we do know is that several regions have claimed it as their own, including South Tyrol, Castle Graefenstein in Northern Germany, and Graasten Castle in Denmark, where it was  first recorded around 1669. It arrived in North America first to California in the early 1800’s, and found success soon after in Nova Scotia, where it was widely planted in the Annapolis Valley in the 19th century.


No two gravensteins seem to look the same, they’re lumpy and bumpy and odd shapes and sizes, and there are several sports and mutations of the original to look out for. But there are a few tricks to identifying a Gravenstein in your yard: Colour wise, you’ll see a light green apple that slowly gains distinctive red stripes, which covers the underlying green and yellow. It’s short, almost non-existent stem is another giveaway. The short stem means apples start pushing themselves right off the tree. As the tree ripens slowly (and usually needs several harvests) your fruit might have started to drop in mid-august, and could keep dropping for a month! This apple doesn’t store very well, you could keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but plan to use it soon. It’s distinctive sweet-acid balance makes it perfect for use in the kitchen, and baking in pies and sauce is meant to enhance it’s unique Gravenstein aroma.


With so many Grav’s on Denman it’s easy to think of it as being a ‘common’ heritage apple, but that’s no longer true. Because of it’s prolonged ripening time and poor storage capability the Gravensteins are no longer favoured.  In traditional orcharding regions like the Okanagan and Sonoma, California, the trees are being lost to development of rural estates and more lucrative vineyards at an alarming rate. In an effort to preserve this wonderful fruit, the Slow Food Movement recently listed the Gravenstein on the Ark of Taste, a list of rare and culturally valuable foods from certain regions that are in danger of being lost. California even has a dedicated Gravenstein Festival now to honour this apple and help reverse it’s declining trend!

Here on Denman our own Apple Festival on Saturday October 12th, arrives a little late to feature Gravensteins, but we’ll be taking a moment out of our day right now to appreciate this juicy apple.

The Apple Fest is based at the Denman Island Farmer’s Market on October 12th starting at 9:30am, and will include a couple of interesting workshops this year, in addition to our famous pies, apple display and ID table. 

If you have extra fruit on your trees this year get in touch with the Growers and Producers Alliance to see if our gleaning program could help you with the harvest! E-mail us at islandagriculture@gmail.com.


Published in the September 2019 Flagstone