The health benefits of apples were first recorded in medieval times, giving rise to the old English saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Recent studies are proving this adage to be true. Eating apples can reduce risk of some cancers, improve lung health, prevent heart disease and strokes and reduce cholesterol damage.
Apples are the most varied food on the planet. There are more than 7,500 varieties of apples grown in the world. Whether your preference is crisp, sweet, tart, soft or crunchy, there is an apple grown for you. The average American eats 19.6 pounds of apples a year, or about one per week. Imagine how many more pounds that would be if everyone ate one a day!
Apples are fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free. They are an excellent source of fiber. Eating apples with the skin on provides more vitamin C, fiber and flavor.
In early America, when times were tough, cooks often had to scrimp on ingredients. Apple pie was a favorite dish, but to save on lard and flour, only a bottom crust was made. More affluent households could afford both an upper and a lower crust, so those families became known as “the upper crust.”
The Big Apple: This nickname for one of our nation’s greatest cities, New York, dates from the 1930s and ’40s, when jazz jived in clubs across the country. The clubs of New York City were the favorite hotspots jazz greats like Charlie Parker. Manhattan soon became known for having “lots of apples on the tree” – that is, lots of places to play jazz.
Age to introduce: Apples are considered a good “first” food for babies and can be introduced at about 6 months (cooked and pureed). Raw apples (whole or chunks) are a choking hazard for children under 3 years old.
At the Market:
Thanks to the ability to easily distribute food all over the country, you can find fresh apples throughout the year in the produce section of most grocery stores. Fall is peak apple season in the major growing regions of America so more varieties may be available during the months of September and October.
Choose apples based on your family’s taste preference and the use you have in mind. Some apples are better for cooking, while others are better for eating raw. If you are looking for a good “all purpose apple”, Red or Golden Delicious, Jonathan or Macintosh are good choices.
Choose firm, shiny, smooth-skinned apples with intact stems. Apples should smell fresh, not musty. Look for apples that are not bruised. If you are lucky enough to have an apple orchard nearby, picking apples is a wonderful early fall family activity. Apples do top the “Dirty Dozen” list for pesticide contaminated produce so going organic is always a good option.
Storage and Ripening:
Refrigerate apples in a plastic bag away from foods with strong odors. Use apples within three weeks of purchase date. Check the apples every few days. If you find one beginning to soften, remove it from the bag so it does not rot all the apples in storage. Apples naturally have a waxy coating that prevents them from drying out before they ripen. Because the apples are washed during the harvesting process, this waxy coating is then replaced by a natural FDA approved wax to keep the apples crisp and moist. Although the wax is approved for consumption, it is best to wash apples with cool water before eating.
Once an apple is sliced and the white flesh is exposed to air, they will turn brown as a part of the oxidation process. Dipping sliced apples in lemon juice will keep them from turning brown.
Apples can be frozen for later use in cooking and baking. Peel, core and slice, then dip in lemon juice and store in an airtight freezer bag.