Crimson Gold Apples – a Tiny, Tasty Treat!

by Dorothy Reinhold on October 18, 2012

Print This Post Print This Post Crimson Gold Apples -- Tiny Tasty Treats

Clusters of tiny, dusty red fruit cling to spindly trees on this sweaty October afternoon, looking a bit like bunches of grapes rather than the groups of Lilliputian apples they are.

Each the size of a golf ball, these tiny, crisp and sweet apples are one of the best tasting yet perhaps least known apple varieties, called Crimson Gold.

Organic Crimson Gold apples. Read about them here: at the trees and they don’t look like the fully-leafed, top-heavy, iconic apples trees of your imagination. Then look at the fruit and you can’t believe something this miniature can taste this magnificent.

Crimson Gold apples in the orchardHot as these 80+ degree days are, overnight at Cuyama Orchards, temperatures dipped into the low 40s. This 40-degree thermal mood swing makes Byron Albano happy, because it improves the sugar and color of his apples. A good balance between natural sugars, acids and tannins is what sets apart a great apple from a merely adequate apple. These organic Crimson Golds have that balance perfected, along with a good crunch.

Byron is the youngest son in the Albano family, owners of Cuyama Orchards, the largest organic apple grower in Southern California. The farm is on the eastern side of the California coastal range, about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara in the Cuyama Valley, and about 2 ½ hours by car from Los Angeles.

Albano Family of Cuyama OrchardsFamily backpacking trips brought the Albanos to the remote region, and parents Howard and Jean Albano bought the land in 1980 to farm. Howard, now 80, calls himself “an Idaho farm boy who never got farming out of my system.” Byron, now marketing director for Cuyama Orchards, recalls the farm at first was “pretty run down, with lots of original vegetation.” They started by growing hay for horses, and segued into apples later after noticing that a hippie commune nearby was successfully growing apples. Today they farm 300 acres of apples.

Cuyama Orchards has been organic for the last 15 of its 30 years, growing 10 varieties of apples. If you ask Byron, he can name them all, in order of picking: Gala, Sweeties, Honeycrisp, Early Fuji, Granny Smith, Crimson Gold, Standard Fuji, Pink Ladies, Arkansas Blacks and Yellow Newtown Pippins. That’s a lot of apples – some 1,000 bins, with 900 pounds of fruit per bin!

Food writers on the Cuyama Orchards tourA group of food writers was lucky enough to visit Cuyama Orchards Wednesday on a farm trip with Melissa’s Produce. Field workers clipped apples from the spindly branches as Byron Albano explained the process to us.

Organic Crimson Gold apples growing on V trellisesThe trees are often grown on a metal V trellis for labor efficiency and better light penetration. They’re carefully and minimally pruned to allow maximum sunlight to hit all parts of the branches and fruit, not pruned to encourage height or leafy fullness. Consequently, the trees look a bit spindly to our non-farmer eyes. “Light on the fruit is important,” Byron explains.

“You can’t grow wood and fruit at the same time,” says Byron, as we nod with new understanding. So fruit it is!

Picking Crimson Gold apples at Cayuma OrchardsThe trees are formed by grafting a branch of the chosen variety onto dwarf root stock. It’s dwarf to keep them small and shorter, which allows for easier picking. Although the farm workers have ladders, much of the fruit is pickable without a ladder.

There’s a small window of time when the apples are perfectly pickable – sweet and mature enough, yet not over sweet or overripe. The Crimson Golds are at about 17 brix (a scientific measurement of sweetness) during our visit, with 17-18 being ideal, he says. If you let them on the trees too long, they’ll get to 21 brix, which will be super sweet, but without the same taste character, Byron notes. Too sweet isn’t good for an apple. The fruit needs acids to balance the flavor and add interest.

A little secret: the Crimson Gold is actually a sweet crabapple. Crabapples are usually small and sour, with the fruit used in pickling or for jelly, but never eaten raw. But since most people associate crabapples with sour, this sweet variety needed a new name to set it apart. Crimson aptly describes the lovely outer color; gold hints at the warm, sweet taste. Crimson Gold it is!

Surround Kaolin Clay used on Crimson Gold applesThe fruit and leaves have a dusty appearance, despite the lack of dust in the air here. It’s from a substance called Surround Kaolin Clay Spray, a tool used by organic orchardists to prevent fruit sunburn. It also repels some pests. It’s a chalky, white dust with extremely fine particles that is sprayed on the trees, and easily rubbed off with your fingers if you eat a just-picked apple in the orchard, or washed off with water during the bagging process.

What should you do with your Organic Crimson Golds?

  • Crimson Gold apples in the lunchboxThey’re a perfect lunchbox or snacking apple. In fact, my kids took them two or three at a time for lunch. Cute is great when it comes to lunchbox food, and these are cute to the 10th degree.
  • Jean Albano is known for making a wonderful apple jelly out of them. Although she couldn’t scare up her exact recipe while we were there, she said her proportions are 3 parts apple juice to 1 part sugar. “I don’t use pectin, because it requires you to use more sugar, and the less sugar you use, the more fruit flavor,” she said. If you’ve ever made jelly before, try her proportions.
  • You can bake them into a crisp.
  • You could roast them and serve with thyme-flecked scones!

Stay tuned to Shockingly Delicious to see what recipes I come up with for them.

Melissa's Organic Crimson Gold Apples in the bagIn the store

Much of the Cuyama Orchards apple crop will go to upscale chains such as Whole Foods, Gelson’s and Bristol Farms. They’ll be labeled as Melissa’s Organic Crimson Gold Apples, in 1-pound bags, and sold for $3.49-$3.99 a bag. In California, we will see them in stores by Oct. 26, and the rest of the country will see them by Halloween. The season goes until late December/early January, so get them while you see them.

Cuyama Orchards apple orchard

Isn’t this the loveliest orchard ever? I’d like to eat dinner here, at a long wooden table. Can you picture it?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Yen Tran November 7, 2020 at 10:00 pm

Hello I’m very love crimson gold apple and I want to order 50 lbs for this month and more order pls let me know if I can order ship to lasvegas


Dorothy Reinhold November 9, 2020 at 10:40 am

Please contact Melissa’s Produce at (800) 588-0151


Zachary T Silber-Coats January 16, 2019 at 8:54 pm

The apple sold by Cuyama is demonstrably NOT Crimson Gold!
Instead, it’s a variety called Wickson.



Dorothy Reinhold January 17, 2019 at 8:20 am



robin mccauley January 19, 2016 at 10:42 am

loved these apples. called all over town trying to find out where i bought them. noone knew. my bag does not say mellissas orchard on it.. just cuyama orchard, but according to your website it was probably whole foods. i also shop at sprouts, natural grocers, trader joes and the commissary at fort carson and king soopers. do you connect with any of these stores? very nice family! im now your biggest fan! do i have to wait a year to get more tiny crimson gold?


Dorothy Reinhold January 20, 2016 at 7:49 am

Wonderful that you love those apples! Yep, you might have to wait another year if the season is over. That just makes them all the more special. 🙂 You could call Melissa’s Produce at (800) 588-0151 or email them at to see if they can tell you which stores in your area might carry those apples. So glad you fell in love with them!


VIVIAN RUIZ May 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Are these apples not grown all year round? I am looking to buy some in June…Would that be possible? I want to make candy apples out of them for a baby shower..Small bite size would be perfect .


Dorothy Reinhold May 13, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Please call Melissa’s Produce at 800.588-0151 and ask about the parameters of the season for these apples. They will know for sure, and if they are out of season, they might have another suggestion for you!


stella December 18, 2014 at 10:13 am

how can I buy your crimson gold apples the very small ones.can I buy from you……..


Dorothy Reinhold December 18, 2014 at 11:59 am

I’m flattered you want to buy Crimson Gold apples from me, but I neither grow nor sell them. (Wish I had my own tree!) You can find out who does, nearest you, by calling Melissa’s Produce toll-free at (800) 588-0151. Good luck!


HUGO November 1, 2013 at 2:46 am



Dorothy Reinhold November 1, 2013 at 11:49 am

Truly, I don’t know. I am not a farmer, so I can’t give you advice. Perhaps you should call the farm and ask them!


JollyTomato October 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm

WOW! This looks amazing. I love apple season, because there’s just about nothing I love more than biting into a fresh, crisp apple. Would love to have been on this trip. I’ll look forward to seeing what you make with these apples!


Annette @LosingYourBelly October 19, 2012 at 9:34 am

I can picture the long table, twinkle lights, glasses of wine and great friends and family all around.


Valentina October 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm

A tiny, tasty treat indeed! What a lovely recap, and yes, it would be delightful to picnic in that pretty orchard!


Patti at Worth The Whisk October 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

OMG, those look heavenly. Imagine how many apples one could eat and still only consume about 20 calories. Love it!


sippitysup October 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm

So many fruits, so little time (if I were younger I’d swear that was a double entendre. But I’m not and its not). GREG


Nancy Rose Eisman October 18, 2012 at 2:47 pm

It looks like it was a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing and educating us on this gem of an apple. Can’t wait to see your recipes.


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