You likely know and love their zippy, sweet-tart flavor and crisp, juicy bite, but what else do you know about Pink Lady® apples? The pink-skinned apple that shines bright in supermarkets every Valentine’s Day has an interesting story to tell, and one that, as growers of Pink Lady apples, we couldn’t wait to share with you.
5 Things You Should Know About the Pink Lady Apple:
1. It was born in the 1970’s in Australia.
In 1973, John Cripps, a researcher from Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture, crossed the American classic Golden Delicious apple with a late-ripening and attractive red Australian apple called Lady Williams. (Apple breeders cross the pollen of two or more varieties in order to develop a new variety with unique genetics and they hope, great eating characteristics). The result was a vibrantly pink-skinned apple with a very unique flavor that would first be known under its cultivar name, Cripps Pink.
2. It was the first apple with a trademark.
Cripps Pink was the first apples to be awarded a trademarked name. Pink Lady is the trademark name for the Cripps Pink cultivar. What does that even mean, you wonder? It means that growers like Stemilt must obtain a license in order to be able to grow, pack, and market this apple variety under the Pink Lady name. Apples that are sold under the Pink Lady brand name must meet high-quality standards and every apple that goes to market as a Pink Lady has met criteria for sugar content, firmness, color, and blemishes. Stemilt also has a trademarked apple variety of its own, called Pinata®.
3. It’s named after a cocktail.
The story of how the Pink Lady name came to be goes like this: Apple breeder John Cripps loved the novel The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Montsarrat. In the book, the hero enjoys a cocktail called a “Pink Lady.”
4. It’s the first apple to bloom, but the last to be harvested.
Pink Lady apples have an incredibly long growing season (200 days!), and spend more time on the tree than any other apple. They grow best in warm climates and are often found growing near wine grapes (as they too need hot weather). Here in Washington, we grow Pink Lady apples primarily in the south-central part of the state in locales known as the Columbia Basin and Tri Cities. It’s here where spring comes first and summer and fall temperatures are hottest. Washington also has a significant dip in day to nighttime temperatures which causes the beautiful pink-over-yellow color of Pink Lady apples. The beautiful pink blossoms that eventually develop and become Pink Lady apples first appear in our orchards in early to mid April, yet harvest for this apple doesn’t begin until mid-October. It’s the apple that we occasionally dust frost off the flowers in the spring, and icicles off the fruit at harvest!
5. Pink Lady is a sweet-tart apple with great versatility.
Pink Lady is high acid, high sugar apple with a crisp bite and effervescent finish. It’s a bit more tart than sweet and very refreshing. Pink Lady apples have a bright white flesh and are one of the main varieties used to make pre-packaged apple slices. The unique skin, flesh, and flavor of Pink Lady make it one of the more versatile apples around. It’s great for snacking, salads, sauce, and for any baking occasion. We have lots of recipes and ideas featuring Pink Lady apples, including a healthy smoothie and fresh salad recipe, a DIY apple tablescape, and a guide to enjoying Pink Lady apples in new ways.
Stemilt’s Pink Lady apples are available from November through July, and peak season coincides with the all-things pink (and red) holiday – Valentine’s Day – held every February 14th. From our farms to your table, I hope you enjoyed learning more about Pink Lady apples, and that you get to experience the zippy and refreshing flavor of Pink Lady apples very soon!