I love apple season. There are few things better than a good apple eaten out of hand. Whether the flesh is mild and sweet or tart and winey, when you bite into it, a fresh-picked apple will make a crisp cracking sound and you'll get a spurt of juice.
There's a season for everything, and the main season for American apples starts the last half of October. I've probably said this a thousand times, but our problem in the United States is that we try to buy produce out of season. Many varieties will keep well late into winter, but by summer most apples have been stored for seven or eight months. No wonder they are soft, mealy, and without juice. When peaches and melons come in, stay away from apples. Come back when there's a snap in the air, and you'll remember what makes apples so good.
Apples are one of the most esteemed fruits in the Northern Hemisphere, in part because they're so versatile. They're delicious raw, baked, dried, or made into applesauce. They make great pies, apple butter, apple jelly, chutney, cider, and cider vinegar, and they're a welcome addition to dozens of other dishes. A member of the rose family, apples have been known since ancient times and were cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, many places grow wonderful apples now, but overall, the United States produces the finest apple crops in the world. The Northwest, the East Coast, and parts of the Midwest regions where the seasons change grow the best apples. They're not a fruit for hot climates.
Only a few of the thousands of varieties of apples grown today are mass marketed, but there are many more out there than Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Macs. There are very old and very new varieties you may never have heard of. If you're north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you're going to find the best apples at local farm markets and stands, where they're fresh-picked, and you're likely to find great varieties you'd never see at the supermarket.
The vast majority of apples are picked from September through November and either sold immediately or put into cold storage, where some keep well and some don't. The peak of the season for domestic varieties when most stored apples still retain their snap is generally over by December. A few will last through the early spring, but by March it's hard even to find a good Winesap.
In most cases look for very firm, bright-colored fruit with no bruises and with the stem still on- a good indication that you've got an apple that's not overripe. The apple should feel heavy in the hand for its size and have a good shine on it. A dull look usually means the fruit has been in storage too long, although some excellent varieties like Winesaps and eastern Golden Delicious have relatively tough skin with little or no sheen. As always, use your nose. An apple that smells great is going to taste great.
Pinkish-orange stripes over a yellow background are the signature of this crisp, aromatically-sweet, snappy apple. Galas have gained popularity among consumers in the past 15 years. Snacking and salads are primary uses. Gala harvest begins in the middle of August and lasts through early September. Galas are stocked September to May.
- Introduction to market: 1965
- Place of origin: New Zealand
- Parentage: Gala is a cross of Cox's Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious developed by New Zealand plant breeders.
APPLES KEEP YOUR FAMILY HEALTHY
Apples really are good for you!
Eating fresh apples is always good for you, but to get the full nutritional benefits associated with eating apples you should eat at least one fresh apple every day. The average U.S. consumer eats about 19 pounds of fresh apples a year about one apple per week. Ongoing consumer attitude tracking in nine major markets across the United States has shown that Washington apples remain number one as far as consumers are concerned. According to one report, 56 percent of those surveyed named Washington as the brand they look for when buying apples.
Over the past four years. Apple consumption has been linked with reduced cancer risk in several studies. A 2001 Mayo Clinic study indicated that quercetin, a flavonoid abundant in apples, helps prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells. A Cornell University study indicated phytochemicals in the skin of an apple inhibited the reproduction of colon cancer cells by 43 percent. The National Cancer Institute has reported that foods containing flavonoids like those found in apples may reduce the risk of lung cancer by as much as 50 percent.
Healthy LungsHeart Disease & Stroke Prevention
Two recent British studies indicated that eating apples can improve lung health. A study of Welsh men indicated that people who ate at least five apples per week experience better lung function. Researchers at the University of Nottingham reported that those who ate five apples per week also had a lower risk for respiratory disease. In the Netherlands at the University of Groningen, apples were singled out as a fruit that could cut smokers' risk of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in half. Scientists believe antioxidants found in apples may ward off disease by countering oxygen's damaging effects on the body.
A Finnish study published in 1996 showed that people who eat a diet rich in flavonoids have a lower incidence of heart disease. Other studies indicate that flavonoids may help prevent strokes.Weight Loss
Apples are a delicious source of dietary fiber, and dietary fiber helps aid digestion and promotes weight loss. A medium apple contains about five grams of fiber, more than most cereals. Also, apples contain almost zero fat and cholesterol, so they are a delicious snack and dessert food that's good for you.Dental Health
Condensed tannins are found in apple juice. Tannins have anti-adhesion properties that may help prevent periodontal or gum disease because they inhibit some bacteria from bonding to each other and producing dental plaque. Tannins also may help prevent urinary tract infections and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Recipes from Produce Pete.