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Know Your Fruits and Veggies™: Apples
By Dawn Swidorski, Public Outreach Director
The apple is a member of rose family and worldwide is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. The tree originated in the area around Kazakhstan in Western Asia, where its wild ancestor, is still found today. Apples have been featured in the mythology and religions of many cultures, including Norse, Greek and Christian traditions.
There is archeological evidence showing apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe. Remains of apples are found among excavations at Jericho in the Jordan Valley dating to 6500 BC and dried apple slices are found on saucers in the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi at Ur near Basara, in Southern Iran dated 2500 BC.
Apples were brought to North America with colonists in the 17th century, and the first apple orchard was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625. Apple varieties brought as seed from Europe were spread along Native American trade routes, as well as being cultivated on Colonial farms. American folk hero Johnny Appleseed was also responsible for spreading apple cultivation. An 1845 United States apples nursery catalogue sold 350 of the "best" varieties, showing the versatility even then.
One of the great things about apples is there are just so many different varieties and every area of the country has their own special varieties.
Today, there are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Different cultivars are bred for various tastes and uses, including in cooking, fresh eating and cider production.
Apples are a white-fleshed, crisp fruit with an edible skin that ranges in color from bright red to light green to gold and every shade in-between.
Apples have a refreshing, sweet or tart flavor that varies by type. Examples of mild, sweeter tasting apples are Red and Golden Delicious. Some of the most popular varieties for raw eating include Delicious, Gala and Fuji apples. Tart varieties include Braeburn and Granny Smith.
For a directory of varieties from A to Z (nope not kidding).
Apples are also incredibly versatile. They can be eaten raw in their own convenient wrapper, put in a variety of salads, paired with root vegetables or winter squash for a casserole or side dish and of course, perfect as a dessert.
Apples also store very well and were a great winter staple before modern preservation techniques.
Apples contain no fat or cholesterol and are low in calories and high in fiber. They are rich in antioxidants especially quercetin and epicatechin. Apples are a good source of vitamin-C, beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, thiamin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6). Apples also contain a small amount of minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.
Selection and Storage
Fresh apples are readily available in the stores all year though fall is the traditional season for apple harvesting. Choose fresh, bright, firm textured apples with rich flavor. Avoid fruits with pressure marks over their surface as they indicate underlying mottled of pulp.
Fresh apples can be kept at room temperature for few days and stored inside the refrigerator for two to three weeks.
Unfortunately, apples are among the 12 fruits and vegetables known as the "dirty dozen." This refers to a list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, developed by the Environmental Working Group's 2010 report, Shopper's Guide to Pesticides. Consuming pesticide residues from produce could pose health risks. If you do not purchase organically grown apples be sure to rinse the entire apple under running water while gently scrubbing the skin with a natural bristle for about 15 seconds prior to eating. This will remove any surface dust and pesticide/fungicide residues.
Sliced apple turns brown (enzymatic brownish discoloration) on exposure to air due to conversion in iron form from ferrous oxide to ferric oxide. If you have to serve them sliced, rinse slices in water added with few drops of fresh lemon.
To get up close and personal with apples you can take a trip to a local orchard to pick your own or visit a cider mill and try some fresh pressed cider. It’s a perfect family outing for this time of year!
Apple Orchards and Cider Mills
Weird Apple Facts
• In 1665 Sir Isaac Newton watches an apple fall to the ground and, wondering why it fell in a straight line, is inspired to discover the laws of gravitation and motion.
• In 1904 J.T. Stinson in an address to the St. Louis Exposition J.T. Stinson was the first to proclaim "An apple a day keeps the doctor away".
• Apples float because 25% of their volume is air.
• The only apple native to North America is the crabapple.
• Half the United States apple crop is turned into apple products like applesauce and apple juice.
• Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.
• Honey bees are the most important pollinators of apple blossoms.
Here's a wonderful recipe: Spiced Fruit Stuffed Apples that can be used as a dessert or even for breakfast!
Read how to Add more Fruits and Veggies to your diet. This article has recommendations for every meal of the day and snacks too! But remember start out with Baby Steps so you don't backslide!
Read more of Dawn Swidorski's columns.
Updated September 27, 2012
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