Apples of My Eye

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This Saturday, March 11, is National Johnny Appleseed Day. John Chapman (1774-1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. Sounds like a Scout.

Here in Washington state, the apple is our state fruit and Washington produces about 42% of the apples grown in the United States, and 60% of those are grown for fresh consumption.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old Welsh proverb that most of us are familiar with, but what makes this fruit so special?

Nutritional powerhouses, apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

A collection of research studies suggest that apples can improve neurological health and prevent dementia. They can reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes, may lower levels of bad cholesterol, may help prevent breast cancer, and they support the good bacteria in our digestive systems.

Apples only come with one small warning: Apple seeds do contain cyanide, a powerful poison. Eating too many apple seeds can potentially be fatal. Apple seeds should not be consumed. I once read a mystery novel where the villain was slowly poisoning the heroine’s brother by feeding him apple seeds.

Apples are among the most commonly cultivated tree fruits. They come in many varieties and can be grown in many places around the world. There are three main use categories for apples: Dessert (sweet and best suited for eating fresh), Cooking (well-suited for baking in pies and cakes or cooking into sauces or butters), and Cider (small and tart, best suited for making cider). I’m not going to get into the Cider Category because that’s a little more complicated and is probably a whole blog post by itself.

So, let’s take a closer look at some dessert and cooking apples.

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Fuji (Dessert) apples were developed in Japan, but its “parents” are American apples, the Red Delicious and the Ralls Janet. They have a sweet, mild flavor and a crunchy texture.

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Gala (Dessert and Cooking) apples are frequently near the top of the most popular apples list. They were developed in New Zealand by crossing a Golden Delicious and a Kidd’s Orange Red. They are fragrant with a mild, sweet flavor and have a fine texture. In cooking, they are suitable for making sauces.

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Golden Delicious (Dessert and Cooking) apples have thin skins and come from West Virginia. They have a mild, sweet flavor, and a smooth texture. In cooking, they are best for pies.

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Granny Smith (Dessert and Cooking) were one of the first apple varieties to be found in markets internationally. They are originally from Australia. They are tart and have a firm texture. In cooking, they are best for baking.

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Jonagold (Dessert) apples are large with a thin skin originally developed in New York. They are aromatic with a sweet-wine flavor. They are juicy and have a fluffily crisp texture.

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McIntosh (Dessert and Cooking) are some of the most aromatic apples and come from Quebec. They have a sweet flavor and juicy texture. In cooking, they are best for sauces and butters.

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Pink Lady (Dessert) is actually a brand name; the apple itself is a member of a variety called Cripps Pink apples from Western Australia. They have a sweet flavor and crunchy texture.

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Red Delicious (Dessert) apples were America’s favorite apple for nearly 75 years and still ranks in the top 10. Originally developed in Iowa, they are mild, sweet and slightly bitter, and have a crunchy texture.

So, with all the varieties of apples out there, you ought to be able to find at least one that you like. My son and I take gala or Fuji apples in our lunches nearly every day. I find I feel better when I do that.

This Saturday, let’s all raise a glass of apple cider to Johnny Appleseed or celebrate with a slice of apple pie!

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Categories: Under the Lid | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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