Pink Pearl; A Sweetheart of an Apple

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple Heart

A heart-shaped tart with Pink Pearl apples

It should really be called pink surprise…but that is the name of one of its  parents so we can’t do that…wait,  let me start again.  People often ask me what kind of edibles I grow in my own garden. When the subject of apples comes up, I tell people my personal favorite is “Pink Pearl”. They often say, “Oh I know that one and I like it too” but they are almost always thinking of “Pink Lady” apple, which is a very good one that has been available in markets for a number of years now. Pink LADY is a lovely soft pink on the OUTSIDE but Pink PEARL is pink on the INSIDE. When I mention this distinction I often get a blank look from the listener, because this heirloom apple, which exhibits an ancient color trait, is just now being re-discovered by new edible garden enthusiasts.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple bite

The pale green skin holds a lovely surprise

This lovely apple variety was created in northern California in 1944 by plant breeder Albert Etter. It is believed to have been developed from an older variety named Surprise, thought to be originally from Turkey and brought to the US by German immigrants a hundred years before. I was first introduced to the variety by Sam Bryan of Broadway Terrace Nursery (thanks Sam), many years ago, when I purchased one for a gift. Later, when I had the right spot, I planted one in my own garden, where it has been growing for almost 15 years now.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple sliced

The rosy, marbled flesh of the Pink Pearl apple

Pink Pearl, like its variable namesake, is a thing of beauty. The cream-colored, unremarkable skin barely gives a hint at what lies beneath. The pink flesh inside, from my experience, can be a soft, delicate rose or a vivid swirl of crimson, depending on the individual apple, the time of maturity and the seasonal conditions. The blossoms too, are noteworthy for their dark pink color, more like some crabapples, and are a lovely addition to any landscape.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple blossoms

Dark pink blossoms are a garden bonus

People who are familiar with this apple can sometimes dismiss it as being mealy, but from my experience, that is only if you wait too long to pick them. On the central California coast they start to ripen in August and they are most reliable when used early, when they are still relatively sour. If you are like me and enjoy the more sweet-tart varieties, then they are delicious from an early stage. If you desire a greater sugar content, they are still perfect for cooking and baking where you can add the amount of sugar you like. Because they are useful early, they are terrific for harvesting over a relatively long period. This is an added benefit to a home orchard, where you might not want to deal with a lot of fruit at once.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple tree

Pink Pearl apples wait for harvest

They last relatively long on the tree. Some years, I’ve harvested them over, as much as, a six to eight week period. Often the later ones really sweeten up and stay crisp and juicy, but in some years they can get a bit mealy as they sweeten. I haven’t yet figured out what factors are influencing this but they generally retain their beautiful coloration even into this later stage.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple James

My nephew James takes a bite

Kids love their unusual color and harvested right off the tree they add conversation-starting interest to any fresh use. They can be processed in any way that you would other apple varieties. They make lovely sauce, cider and preserves. However, the nice pink color they imbue can also be “faked” by the addition of some berry juice to, say,  your applesauce for example. Also I have found that many preserving methods allow them to eventually oxidize and lose their distinctive color, even when preserved in alcohol (I once tried an infused vodka, which tasted ok but the apples were brown and unattractive). Because of this, I prefer to use them in ways that have more visual impact.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple frozen

Frosty slices waiting to be baked

In order to keep their color over the longest time, so far I’ve found that the best way to preserve them is to dry or freeze them. I usually cut them into large slices and pop “project sized” portions into the freezer, then use them for baking later in fall and winter. This seems to keep their color very well and adding them sliced or chopped to baked goods, like tarts, crumbles and pies shows off their amazing color in a way that can’t be imitated.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple Tart closeup

Pink Pearl apple tart

Winter is the time to add a bare-root tree to a sunny, well-drained spot in your garden. You could soon be enjoying the beautiful blossoms and within a couple of years, you could be baking an amazing pink apple tart straight off the tree or, with just a little forethought, for your valentine, or almost any time of year.

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple Emilys tart 01

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple Emilys Tart 03

Albright-Souza Pink Pearl Apple Emilys Tart

You don’t have to coordinate your outfit to your apples, as my niece Emily happens to do here, but it can’t hurt

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Categories: Things to Eat


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9 Comments on “Pink Pearl; A Sweetheart of an Apple”

  1. February 13, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    It is amazingly pink! I have had pink-ish apples from the farmer’s market before and they were pretty exciting but these are on a whole other level!

    • February 20, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      Yes, they vary from year to year and apple to apple, but they’re reliably pink.

  2. Susan
    February 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Lovely Joy and enjoyed to kid pics..they will know where tarts come from, having you for an aunt. Isn’t it great to have had such a tree for so many years that you can personally experience all of its possiblities….

    • February 20, 2013 at 10:22 am #

      Thanks Susan. Yes, experiencing a garden over time adds such enjoyment.

  3. February 20, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Absolutely a perfect blog! It glows pink! Thanks so much for stopping by. I envy your life on the west coast! Diane

  4. L.Y.Nicoll
    September 15, 2013 at 4:19 am #

    Any idea where u can purchase these apples and have shipped to Georgia?

    • September 15, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      Pink Pearl bare root trees are propagated by California wholesale grower Dave Wilson Nursery. The trees can be ordered through nurseries that re-sell in Georgia. You can find the one closest to you by clicking on “Where to buy DWN Trees” at Good luck!

  5. cbird1057
    July 10, 2016 at 12:16 am #

    I live in a community in Northern California and we have a “fruit share” where residents will harvest their trees and share with everyone. Today I received a number of these apples (mid-July) and made a crisp. These were some of the tartest most flavorful apples ever, with a strong candy-like fragrance almost like fruit punch. What a surprise, since I thought they were early Granny Smiths!

    • July 10, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

      How wonderful! I love the community fruit share and it sounds like you made the perfect choice with your bounty. Yes, these apples are a delight for baking with their beautiful color, extra tartness and complex flavor. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience. – now the question is; will you be sharing your crisp? ha ha!

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