With splashy colors, a so-sweet taste and a bite that pops louder than a campaign cork, it’s no wonder the Gala apple shares its name with the best kind of party.
But this perpetual produce aisle star is so much more than a good time.
Where Do Gala Apples Come From?
If Gala apples seem almost too good to be true, we might be able to blame their origins. The fruits hail from the impossibly idyllic islands of New Zealand, Earth’s closest answer to Eden. So it only makes sense that they’d look, smell and taste like little bites of heaven.
Today, Gala apples are arguably the most popularly-sold variety of apple on the U.S. market. (Many polls place them in the top spot, and nearly all counts have them in the top 10.) And, as a fruit that includes more than 7,500 varieties—and counting!—among its ranks, that’s saying something.
But it wasn’t always such a party in the apple aisle. In fact, Gala apples didn’t even exist until the 1970s.
The yummy treats were first born in 1974, when a Kiwi orchardist—an orchardist from New Zealand, not one who plants kiwi fruit—first mixed the seeds from the already-popular Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red varietals. What sprouted from that union was a fruit that seemed to get the best of both worlds: A mottled red-and-yellow pallet mixed with the sweet taste of Kidd’s and the perfect crispiness from the Golden Delicious.
At the time, they were one of the first new apple varieties in decades to hit the U.S. market, and it didn’t take long for the taste to catch on. Today, what was novel is now a well-tread path in the grocery store, and the popular Gala variety is grown all over the world to keep up with demand.
What Do Gala Apples Taste Like?
And there’s good reason for that demand, too. Like the classy get-togethers it shares its name with, the Gala apple has taste.
The traditional version of the varietal is mild and sweet, with a vanilla-leaning profile and a perfect crispy bite. And while some apple traditionalists swear the treat isn’t sweet enough, the popularity polls tell a different story, with Gala’s unassuming flavor hitting just the right mark for many consumers.
In fact, Galas are so well-loved, a number of “sports”—or, varieties of a variety—have been developed over the years. Results have admittedly varied, but at least one sport has seemed to come out ahead: The Royal Gala.
Darker in skin tone (it reads more red than mottled or pink) and deeper in taste, while maintaining the same juicy bite, these apples truly deserve their haughty titles. Indeed, they were named by an expert. Royal Galas got their name after the Queen of England herself sent approval of the fruit.
Gala Apple Culinary Uses
When it comes to the kitchen, Gala fans have even more reason to rejoice. The apples are good in pretty much anything.
Technically considered a dessert apple, the fruit is undeniably best when fresh—and eaten that way a majority of the time, whether chopped up in salads, thrown into lunch bags or simply munched on at snack time. But Gala apples also make excellent subjects for juicing, and are famous for how long they can handle a freezer.
One place they don’t exactly shine, however, is in the baking department. Their flesh and flavor simply doesn’t hold up under high heat, making Galas something you’re much more likely to find in a punch bowl than a pie.
How to Pick the Best Gala Apple
Still, on the whole, these ruby treasures are nothing if not consistent. And that goes double for their seasonality.
The apples are extremely growable – good in everything from mild to mildly cold climates – and sprout up regularly on both sides of the equator. That means that, no matter what time of year, you can probably pick up a specimen that’s at least relatively fresh. But to make sure you’re always on the freshest side of the world, it’s best to buy Southern Hemisphere-grown Galas between April and September, and Northern Hemisphere-grown specimen from September through November.
But even if it’s one of those in-between months, you’re most likely going to be okay. Galas are famous for their freezing abilities, and many can safely stay in storage for up to 6 months. Indeed, aside from taste, their durability—and how easily it allows them to ship long distances—is one of the prime reasons behind their widespread sales.
If the thought of an apple in sitting in storage makes you feel finicky, another tip is to mind their color. Gala apples darken as they mature, whether that’s on the tree or in storage. So if you want an apple that’s most likely to come from the latest crop, pick out a light-colored example. The darker the apple, the more life experience it’s typically had.
Yet, no matter how much they may blush, with their palate-pleasing loveliness, Gala apples truly are the belle of the ball.