Don't get me wrong; I like Gala apples. Sweet, firm, and juicy; they hold up well in winter storage, too, even until spring when the pickings of apples in the grocery store are starting to look sad. But if given a choice, I'll go for an Empire or a Braeburn, or that once-exotic but now pedestrian Granny Smith.
The most popular apple in the United States has been and still is the Red Delicious, despite the fact that most people have never eaten a decent one. At their prime, this apple has dark, sensual notes of wine and maple to its sugary juice, and can be as firm as any of the crispiest varieties out there. But normally it is mushy, bland and insipid.
Britain's most popular apple for many years has been Cox's Orange Pippin, but this story in the Guardian claims that the top apple is now the sweet Gala. The writer goes on to encourage readers to sample Britain's heirloom varieties, some of which have continued to be sold at greengrocers for years, and some of which are slowly being re-introduced on the wave of love for heirloom apples that is also sweeping the Unites States.
The Guardian has published some terrific articles of interest to apple and orchardist enthusiasts in recent years, like this one on cider apples, or this one that suggests that mistletoe may become scarce as its favorite habitat, the traditional country apple orchard, becomes a thing of the past. This writer praises the English apple and all its variety, and this piece bemoans the British trend of importing most of its apples instead of relying on local abundance.
Nature loves diversity, and, as Michael Pollan describes in fascinating prose in his book The Botany of Desire, apple trees reward human intervention on their behalf with sweeterm more delectable fruit. Let's help them along, shall we?