Gala is a wildly popular variety of apple, and for good reason! There are many uses for this excellent all-round type of apple.
Gala apples have a crisp texture, sweet flavour, and classic beautiful yellow/orange skin with red striping. Bred in New Zealand in the 1930’s, they are now worldwide favourites. More galas are grown in the USA than any other type of apple! Their juicy flesh is excellent for eating fresh and for cooked recipes.
There are some important tips to know when buying or growing your own gala apples. Read on to learn all about how to enjoy the best of these delicious fruits!
The Gala Apple
The gala apple was bred by orchardist J.H. Kidd in 1930’s New Zealand. The variety is a cross between the popular golden delicious variety and one of Kidd’s own types, Kidd’s orange red. Since the original tree was discovered, orchardists the world over have planted galas, even propagating the best branches (called “sports”) to produce improved strains of gala with desirable genetic mutations.
“Gala: This variety, a cross between Kidd’s Orange Red and Golden Delicious, originated in New Zealand. The Royal Gala strain was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, who deemed it her favorite during a visit to New Zealand. It was brought to the United States in the early 1970s and is now one of the country’s most popular apples.”Apple Varieties: Gala, US Apple Association
Gala apple trees were bred through natural cross-pollination of existing varieties. Gala apples are not genetically-modified (GMO). Varying strains of the gala variety are naturally-occurring genetic mutations rather than the product of genetic engineering.
What Do Gala Apples Taste Like?
Gala apples have a sweet, pear-like flavour, juicy fine flesh, and thin, blush skin. Here are some descriptions of what perfectly-ripe gala apples taste like:
- Creamy, juicy white flesh with a dense, fine texture
- Crisp, succulent fresh-apple snap when eaten fresh
- Subtle, sweet, pear-like flavour with slight acidity
- Aromatic hints of apple blossoms and vanilla
Their crisp, sweet taste makes gala apples an excellent all-round apple. They’re delicious when eaten fresh, and can also be cooked into applesauce or pressed into apple cider. Their subtle flavour pairs well on a charcuterie board with bold cheeses and with full-bodied wines.
Harvest Season for Gala Apples
Harvest season for gala starts in mid-July and lasts through the month of September. Gala apples grown in warmer areas of the USA typically ripen first, while those grown in areas with colder winters ripen in September. New Zealand-grown apples ripen in February-March.
The flavour of gala apples is best when harvested at optimal maturity. Orchardists leave these apples on the tree until they have reached peak sweetness, but before the flavour has a chance to deteriorate. Galas that are left on the tree tend to have a deeper red blush to their skin, although this is also affected by the climate and the specific genetics of the tree.
Where Are Gala Apples Grown?
Gala apples have been grown all over the world for decades. This particular variety has flexible growing-climate requirements, making it a viable crop in a wide range of regions. Because they are grown in both hemispheres, gala apples are available in grocery stores year-round.
Here are some of the major production areas for gala apples:
- Northern China
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Tips for Buying Gala Apples
Gala apples are widely available at supermarkets and grocery stores, having become the most-produced type of apple in the USA as of 2019. They are also readily available at farmers markets and fruit stands. Freshly-picked local apples tend to have better flavour, texture, and shelf-life than those stored and imported for commercial distribution.
While locally-grown apples are wonderful, there are some times of year when imported apples are fresher. Look for North American-grown gala apples in August-February. Starting in March, the new crop from the Southern Hemisphere become available. Gala apples from New Zealand/Chile/South Africa are the freshest from mid-March to early July. The first of the North American gala apples are available again in late July.
Royal Gala apples are medium-sized apples, and may even be on the smaller end of the apples available at the store (perfect for little kids!). A typical gala apple weighs around 6 ounces or 0.35 pounds (150 grams). There are generally 3 apples in a pound of gala apples.
Gala apples cost about $2 per pound when purchased at the grocery store. Bulk discounts are available when lots of apples are purchased at once. A large ten-pound bag of Galas tends to contain between 25-30 individual apples, and may cost $10-$15 at a retailer.
“At the 2019 U.S. Apple Association’s Marketing and Outlook Conference on Aug. 22, gala production was pegged at 50 million (42-pound) cartons, easily above the 45.82 million carton output of red delicious.”Gala Claims Top Apple Spot, Produce Retailer
How to Grow Gala Apples
Home gardeners can grow their own gala apples with a bit of planning an annual maintenance. Galas can be grown in both cool and warm apple-growing regions, as they do not require as many hours of cold winter temperatures as some other varieties (like honeycrisp apples, which require cold winters).
Gala apples can be grown from Washington down to California, Minnesota over to Ohio, and in NY and Pennsylvania. Look for a healthy, locally-grown young tree for the best results in your climate. Gala apple trees are cold-hardy to Zone 4, surviving temperatures down to -30°F (-34°C)!
“When planting your tree, make sure that the graft union (the bulge where the root stock has been fused onto the scion) is about 5 cm (2 inches) above the soil line. If you bury the graft union, the scion may grow roots and then your tree will not benefit from the positive traits of the rootstock.”Growing Urban Orchards: How to Care for Fruit Trees in the City and Beyond, by Susan Poizner
The apple blossoms on your gala apple tree are best pollinated with pollen from a different type of apple tree. Good pollinator varieties for gala trees include golden delicious, red delicious, honeycrisp, granny smith, and fuji apples. A neighbour may already have an apple (or crabapple) tree that flowers at the same time as your new gala tree.
Trees produce the highest number of apples when planted in a sunny area where they will receive 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. Plant new trees as soon as possible in a wide, shallow hole. Water the tree deeply after planting, and continue to water it regularly as its roots become established. A 1″-thick layer of compost can be placed on the soil around the tree as mulch, as long as it doesn’t touch the trunk itself.
Prune gala apple trees in March by removing vertical shoots, branches that are crossing/rubbing, and any branches that are dead, dying, diseased, or otherwise damaged. Also be sure to prune other trees in the area to let in the light. Apple trees need lots of sunlight!
Gala apple trees in warmer areas like North Carolina tend to bloom in April, while those in northern areas bloom in May. Expect your tree to start blossoming and growing yummy gala apples about 3 years after planting! You may wish to remove a portion of the young apples so that the remaining apples grow larger and sweeter with the extra attention.
Shelf Life for Ripe Gala Apples
Storing gala apples is largely dependant upon temperature. A Royal Gala apple may only keep for a week or two on the counter, while it can keep for 6-8 weeks in the refrigerator (use the crisper drawer). Galas can last 4 months in cold storage and can be kept in commercial controlled-atmosphere storage for up to 8 months!
Choose apples that are free from blemishes or bruising, as they will last the longest in storage. Royal Gala apples have a thin skin and can be easily checked over for damage. Also try to choose gala apples for storage that are at the peak of their ripeness. Over or under-ripe galas don’t store as well. And remember that apples store best in cool conditions: between 34°-39°F (1°-4°C).
What to Make with Gala Apples
Gala apples are excellent all-round apples, meaning they are great for eating fresh AND for using in baking and other cooked recipes. Use your gala apples to make apple slices, salads, juicing, baking, or freezing for later use.
Baking with Gala Apples
Gala apples are good for baking, particularly when combined with other varieties to add complexity of flavour and full texture. The golden delicious apple, which is one of the parent varieties of gala, makes an excellent pairing when the two types of apples are blended in pies, crumbles, or crisps. Gala apples can also be combined with braeburn or spartan apples, or they can simply be used all on their own!
Gala Apple Recipes
These recipes are perfect for making with gala apples:
- Apple Walnut Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Classic Applesauce
- Cinnamon Apple Cake
- Carmel Candy Apples
- Royal Gala Apple Strudel
Substitutes for Gala Apples
Gala apples are easily substituted with offspring varieties like jazz, envy, kanzi, and summerfree. The apples from which gala is descended are also an excellent substitution choice. Gala is a cross between golden delicious and Kidd’s orange red (which is a cross of red delicious and Cox’s orange pippin). Any of these parent apples would be a great stand-in for gala.
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