The best apple varieties for eating have a thin skin and juicy flesh. While some apples are more tart than others, one eaten out of hand should possess enough sweetness to make for a pleasant snacking experience. Similarly, some apples may have a soft texture while others remain crisp and firm; both make good eating apples depending on your preference.
Apples are in season from August to October, but many varieties store well long beyond that date and thus are available year-round. If you're looking for the freshest apples, however, stick to the autumn months.
Granny Smith is the familiar green supermarket staple with a crisp, pronouncedly tart flavor. Originally from Australia, this apple has a thicker skin than many, which is its only disadvantage.
Braeburn features a sweet-tart flavor with spicy notes and firm flesh. Its skin is beautifully streaked with red and yellow. Braeburn originated in an orchard in New Zealand.
Jonagold is a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious, and retains the best qualities of its parents -- a sweet-tart flavor, firm and juicy snow-white flesh, large size and thin skin. This variety was developed by Cornell University's agricultural program in the 1940s.
Sierra Beauty is an heirloom apple that was discovered in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California in the 1890s and rediscovered in the 1980s; it has been gaining recognition recently thanks to Slow Food USA. It features red and yellow striping and a complex, sweet-tart and spicy flavor.
Honeycrisp apples start out tasting tart and finish with a pronounced honeyed note. Their complex flavor and exceptional juiciness make them a favorite for eating out of hand. Honeycrisps were developed at the University of Minnesota and are particularly noteworthy for their cold-hardiness.
Select apples that are firm to the touch and inspect for bruising and breaks in the skin before you buy. Once you've brought them home, store them in the refrigerator to preserve their taste and texture. Fresh apples will keep for several weeks when stored this way.
Cameo apples originated in the state of Washington and remain a big seller in the Pacific Northwest. Cameos are striped in red and yellow, possibly owing to their ancestry, as this variety is believed to be a cross between Red and Golden Delicious.
Fuji apples, originally from Japan, are extra-large, extra-crisp and strikingly sweet. Their skin varies from reddish with a yellow undertone to fully red and yellow; sometimes they even have a greenish cast.
Gala apples are crisp, thin-skinned and sweet with a hint of spiciness to their flavor. Gala's bright yellow undertone and pinkish top color give this apple a distinctive, almost glowing look.
The Jazz apple is a recent, patented cross between Braeburn and Gala. It's known for its extra-firm, dense flesh as well as its superior taste. The redder the apple, the better its flavor.
If you're looking for a green apple with a sweet flavor, Crispin is your apple of choice. Sometimes known as Mutsu, this apple is yellower than the better-known Granny Smith, with a thinner skin but a similar firm texture. Originally from Japan and related to Golden Delicious, Crispins are prized for their large size and honeyed finish.
Different varieties of apples turn brown at different rates when exposed to air. To slow the browning process, dip them in a mixture of lemon juice and water.