Have you ever gone to pick your beautiful apple crop and found this inside?

It’s internal browning, and it’s pretty gross. When it’s this advanced, it makes the apples completely inedible.

It’s not that uncommon to see it in apples that are picked too ripe or stored too long, and it’s a known potential problem when storing apples in long term cold storage, but it’s unusual (and a bit yuk) to see it in apples that haven’t yet ripened.

But when a heatwave happens at the wrong time is when you might find it inside a Gravenstein apple.

Gravvies start to ripen about this time of year in our district. Usually the picking starts when most of the fruit isn’t quite ripe yet. They’re just starting to colour up, and the seeds are just starting to go brown (an indicator of apple ripeness).

Gravenstein apples on the ground in a heatwave
Gravenstein apples on the ground in a heatwave

So imagine our massive disappointment when we went to pick some delicious new-season’s apples, and instead found quite a lot of apples on the ground and many of them browned off inside.

Any time this has happened, the most likely culprit has been a heat wave — something we seem to be getting more of here in central Victoria.

A lot of fruit can handle extreme temperatures OK (though they do need some extra care and attention), but it looks like Gravensteins are not one of them, possibly due to their European heritage and tendency to be a soft apple.

This is what they should look like in a good year…

Beautiful ripe Gravenstein apple showing the characteristic red stripe over a green background
Beautiful ripe Gravenstein apple showing the characteristic red stripe over a green background

This has happened a number of times to this variety, which is making us question the wisdom of trying to grow apples that were bred hundreds of years ago in Europe in our very different climate here in Australia.

As our summers seem to be increasing in heat intensity, this may become an ongoing problem and might eventually make the variety unviable in this growing area.

However if there’s one thing we’ve learned over recent years it’s that the climate is variable, so it’s also quite likely that there will also be seasons when the Gravenstein shines, possibly in conditions that don’t suit other varieties.

That’s the key to the biodiversity plan that has led us to grow a big collection of varieties, and one of the features of our Appreciate Apples short course.

For the moment at least, it will continue to hold it’s place in the crazy biodiverse mix in the orchards on our farm!