Gala apples are covered in a thin yellow to orange skin, highlighted with pink to red stripes that vary in hue dependent upon the apples maturity. Their dense flesh is creamy yellow and crisp, offering a mildly sweet flavor and flora aroma. Gala’s that are allowed to reach the peak of their sweetness on the tree will have a deeper red hue and a slightly sweeter flavor.
A cross between Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red, the Gala apple is currently one of the most extensively grown apples in the world. It has an impressive lineage, being related as well to both the Delicious and Cox Orange Pippin varieties. It is also parent to several varieties such as the Jazz, Royal Gala and Pacific Rose.
Gala apples are a great snacking fruit as they are low in calories, high in water content and offer a fair amount of vitamins A, C and B. They also contain a dietary fiber known as pectin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and help prevent heart attacks. They also contain trace amounts of boron, which has been touted for its ability to help build strong bones.
The delicate flavor and texture of the Gala apple shines in fresh preparations. They are perfect for use in fruit, green and chopped salads. Add diced gala to fruit salsas and chutneys. Slice and add to burgers, paninis and crostinis. Their sweet flavor becomes milder when cooked making them perfect in baked preparations when paired with stronger flavored apples such a Granny Smith, Arkansas Black, Pippin and Mutsu. The flavor of pears, winter squash, onions, pecans, turkey, curry, brie, cheddar and Swiss cheese complement Gala apples.
Gala apples were developed in New Zealand in 1934 by apple breeder J.H. Kidd. Commercial distribution began in both Europe and the United States in the 1980’s. Gala apples grow well in both warm and cold climates and as result can be found growing in apple growing regions across the globe.
- Each variety has a number of chill hours needed to set fruit (i.e., the amount of time temperatures are between 32 and 45 degrees F). The farther north you go, the more chill hours an apple variety needs to avoid late spring freeze problems. Check tree tags for chill hour information or ask the seller.
- Apple trees need well-drained soil, nothing too wet. Soil needs to be moderately rich and retain moisture as well as air; mulch with straw, hay, or some other organic material to keep soil moist and provide nutrients as they decompose.
- Choose a sunny site. For best fruiting, an apple tree needs “full sunlight,” which means six or more hours of direct summer sun daily. The best exposure for apples is a north- or east-facing slope.
- Tree spacing is influenced by the rootstock, soil fertility, and pruning. Seedlings or full-size trees should be planted about 15 to 18 feet apart in a row. A dwarfing rootstock might be 4 to 8 feet apart in a row.
- Do not plant trees near wooded areas or trees.
Planting the Tree in the Ground
- Before planting, remove all weeds and the grass in a 4-foot diameter circle.
- After you purchase the tree, protect it from injury, drying out, freezing, or overheating. If the roots have dried out, soak them in water about 24 hours before planting.
- Dig a hole approximately twice the diameter of the root system and 2 feet deep. Place some of the loose soil back into the hole and loosen the soil on the walls of the planting hole so the roots can easily penetrate the soil. Spread the tree roots on the loose soil, making sure they are not twisted or crowded in the hole. Continue to replace soil around the roots. As you begin to cover the roots, firm the soil to be sure it surrounds the roots and to remove air pockets.
- Do not add fertilizer at planting time, as the roots can be “burned”. Fill the remainder of the hole with the loose soil, and press the soil down well.
- Most apple trees are grafted. The graft union must be at least 2 inches above the soil line so that roots do not emerge from the scion. The graft union (where the scion is attached to the rootstock) can be recognized by the swelling at the junction.
Minimize Pruning of a Young Tree
Pruning slows a young tree’s overall growth and can delay fruiting, so don’t be in a hurry to prune, other than removing misplaced, broken, or dead branches. There are several techniques to direct growth without heavy pruning. For example:
- Rub off misplaced buds before they grow into misplaced branches.
- Bend a stem down almost horizontally for a few weeks to slow growth and promote branches and fruiting. Tie down with strings to stakes in the ground or to lower branches.
Prune a Mature Tree Annually
Once an apple tree has filled in and is bearing fruit, it requires regular, moderate pruning.
- Prune your mature tree when it is dormant. Completely cut away overly vigorous, upright stems (most common high up in the tree).
- Remove weak twigs (which often hang from the undersides of limbs.
- Shorten stems that become too droopy, especially those low in the tree.
- After about ten years, fruiting spurs (stubby branches that elongate only about a half-inch per year) become overcrowded and decrepit. Cut away some of them and shorten others.
- When a whole limb of fruiting spurs declines with age, cut it back to make room for a younger replacement.
- Thin or remove excess fruit. This seems hard but this practice evens out production, prevents a heavy crop from breaking limbs, and ensures better-tasting, larger fruit crop.
- Soon after fruit-set, remove the smallest fruits or damaged ones, leaving about four inches between those that remain.
Apples are prone to pests. Here are some pointers:
- Keep deer at bay with repellents, fencing, or deer-resistant plants; deter mice and rabbits with wire-mesh cylinders around the base of the tree.
- Sprays may be needed for insects like Japanese beetle, although one of the worst culprits, the apple maggot, can be trapped simply enough by hanging one or two round, softball-size balls—painted red and coated with sticky “Tangle-Trap”—from a branch in June through the summer. Reapply the sticky goo a time or two, as necessary.
- Fend off diseases by raking apple leaves, burying them beneath mulch, or grinding them with a lawnmower at season’s end.
- Pruning reduces disease by letting in more light and air.
- To keep insects away from apple trees, make a solution of 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 quart of water. Pour this mixture into a widemouthed plastic jug. Hang the jug, uncovered, in your apple tree.
Harvest patiently. After all this pruning and caring, be sure to harvest your apples at their peak of perfection.
- Pluck your apples when their background color is no longer green.
- Different apple varieties mature at different times, so the harvest season can stretch from August to October.
- At this point, the stem should part readily from the branch when the fruit is cupped in the palm of your hand and given a slight twist around, then up.
- If the apple is overripe and soft, use for cooking!
- Only store mid or late season apples. Early season varieties don’t keep and are best eaten soon after picking. Mid season varieties should keep for a few weeks, while late season varieties will stay in good condition for anywhere up to six months. Apples destined for storage must be perfect, with no bruises or blemishes that could provide entry points for rot.
- Store apples by wrapping up individual fruits in newspaper or tissue paper. Place the wrapped apples onto trays that allow air to circulate. You can also store them unwrapped, but the fruits should not touch. Different varieties store for different lengths of time, so keep them separate and eat those that won’t store as long first.
- The ideal store is somewhere dark, well-ventilated, and cool but frost-free. Most garages and sheds are ideal, while attics and basements should be avoided due to either excessive heat, lack of ventilation or low humidity. Check stored apples regularly and remove any that are going soft, brown or rotting.
March 11 is Johnny Appleseed Day, celebrating John Chapman,
legendary American pioneer and folk hero who planted apple trees across the American Frontier.
Did you know that apples and aged cheeses can reduce tooth plaque? (Eat them together!)
A bad woman can’t make good applesauce. –proverb