FoodFacts: APPLES

RER 10.9.12

Nothing says fall quite like apples… or pumpkin spice lattes at Starbuck’s (I don’t even like Starbucks). But anyways, apples are a fall staple, and become more and more in season as fall approaches. There are, though, some apples that grow all year round, but there is something that connects these sweet and delicious treats to the fall season. Maybe it is candied apples, smothered in rich caramel and red candy, or hot apple pies laced with cinnamon and warmth, or spiced apple cider that warms cool afternoons… who knows, but a lot of apple varieties start their growth season in September.[1]

Don’t get me wrong… apples are great snacks, they are sweet and crunchy, sometimes tangy and tart, and almost always delicious (though there are those rare occasions that one stumbles on a worm, or a mushy inside, this then rules out the delicious part, unless you are into that). Apples are in fact one of the most popular fruits consumed. And according to buzzle.com eighty percent of people around the globe eat apples.[2]

You do know the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Though just like a nursery rhyme, this phrase is has been disputed, and the analysis of the true nutritional facts of the apple have been examined. I can hardly imagine that just one apple a day, can stave off the doctor for life, but the apple really does have nutritional and health benefits. There has been a lot of research on this matter, and studies suggest that apples can possibly reduce risks of various different cancers, and heart disease. These crunchy treats are also great aids in controlling cholesterol and weight loss.[3]

However, the nutritional facts for the different types of apples do vary. According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), one medium apple with its skin, on average weighing about 182 grams, has approximately 100 calories, zero of which are from fat. There is no saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and protein. There are about 25 grams of carbohydrates which is about 8% of the daily value, 4 grams of fiber at 18%, and about 19 grams of sugar.[4]

Apples are very fibrous fruits, and help us achieve our prescribed fiber amount for any given day. A medium apple, which is about 3 inches in diameter, has approximately four grams of fiber, while a large apple (clocking in at 3.25 inches in diameter) contains about 5 grams.[5] This fiber is what makes apples so helpful in the control of cholesterol. The fiber reduces cholesterol by helping to prevent reabsorption.[6]

Although apples, compared to their fruit and veggie friends, contain minimal levels of vitamin C, they are a great source of antioxidants.[7] Some of these antioxidants (flavonoids and polyphenolics) are epicatechin, procyanidin B2, and tartaric acid, which aid our bodies in protection from the bad effects of free radicals. Apples are also a great source of B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin and pyridoxine which help in metabolism (weight control) and various other internal bodily functions. Along with these goodies, apples also have small amounts of important minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.[8]

Some History
Apples are another one of those foods (like many of the foods I choose for FoodFacts) that have a very long and varied history, travelling the world through trade, and grown throughout the globe because of domestication as well as innate cultivation. Members of the genus Malus domestica, apples thought to be originated in Western Asia, and have been growing there for thousands of years. The apple was also growing in Europe and was eventually brought to North America, in the typical way, trade and colonists.[9]

Apples also have a rich cultural history following far back perhaps even to their point of discovery and first cultivation. They play large roles in a lot of Ancient Greek Mythology, as well as an essential point in the Bible (you know the Garden of Eden, temptation, sin…). This fruit also makes an appearance in Norse mythology.[10] The apple has been personified and signifies different concepts and ideas in many different cultures such as beauty, fertility, health, love, luck, temptation and wisdom.[11] It is amazing that this one, small piece of nature’s bounty can represent such a wide variety of ideas. And that something concrete and edible would be the manifestation of elements that are not tangible and hardly have simple definitions.

China is still the top producer of apples![12]

According to one source, there are over 7,500 varieties of apples in the whole world (ohemgee). The United States is home to a whopping 2,500 types, however there are only about 200 kinds of apples that are grown commercially.  Of the fifty states in the United States of America, only six states produce most of the apple types (commercially and non commercially). These top apple producers are; California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.[13] Apple types and varieties are not always completely natural, and do in fact involve selective breeding, which then creates even more types.

The top 5 most popular varieties in the United States are the Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith apples.[14] These perhaps are the top five because their raw edibility and some of their great usage in cooking.

I have tried: Braeburn, Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith (at least that I can remember!).

My all time top favorite apple, thus far, has to be the Honeycrisp. Oh why do I love the Honeycrisp so? They are delicious, first of all, but the texture is just right, and they have my ideal ratio of tang and sweet. They are crisp and juicy, but not too stiff or dry. This kind of apple holds up well to the tests of time and does not bruise like some other apples do. The coloring is also very nice; greens, reds and pinks.

Now the honeycrisp, according to orangepippin.com, is a somewhat new breed of apple. Yes, it is one of those modified and created apples, but those scientists at the University of Minnesota really knew the business. These were created for growers who were cultivating apples in colder climates, which explains why this kind of apple withstands cold much better than many others. Even though the honeycrisp, sometimes “honey crisp,” was developed back in the 1960s, it only hit the markets not too long ago in the 1990s. Essentially, this variety “represented a relatively rare combination of Golden Delicious and McIntosh styles.”[15] And looking and tasting this delicious apple, this marriage and mixture is evident, in taste, colors and trademarks.

My ultimate least favorite, most detestable apple would be the Red Delicious. I am not a huge fan of its mealy interior texture. This variant lacks the delightful crisp crunch that I always long for in an apple. They are just terribly sweet and in a way mushy. The flavor is monotone and sweet, and sometimes the skin is hard and bitter. Red Delicious apples are not very good for cooking either, according to eatingwell.com. [16]

Apples As Food
Because apples are so widespread and there are a zillion different variants, all with different tastes, textures, colors, and even scientific reactions, there are apples found in different cuisines, traditions and disciplines. Some of these different attributes make some apples better for cooking and some better for consuming raw. Apples are found in both sweet and savory dishes, ranging from pies and pastries to southern comfort dinner favorites. The best types of apples for cooking apparently are the Granny Smith and the McIntosh varieties, though there is an endless list of apples that can be used for cooking, some genetically engineered just for that.[17]

There are apple pies, apple tarts, apple turnovers, fritters, doughnuts, Apple sauce, apple juice, apple cider (hot and cold), candy apples, caramel apples, apple flavored candies, Apple jam, pork chops with sauerkraut and apples, baked chicken with apples and onions apples in coleslaw…The list of dishes and treats with apples is large and alarming, but all at the same time delicious.

As we can see apples are a diverse and greatly appreciated fruit, that come in many shapes and sizes, home grown and lab created, healthy and nutritious. Such a small fruit comes in so many different varieties, and the list is only growing. The list of dishes and treats apples are a part of is growing as well, from all American favorites to unique cuisine. And fall is here, so let the apple season begin!

Check out orangepippin.com for a hugemongous directory of apple varieties. This giant directory includes flavor and appearance note, as well as if the kind is a good apple for cooking. It is severely specific and informative! It is one of my new favorite websites, so much good information, history, science and taste knowledge!

How do you like them apples?

Check out my sources page to find out more info on these round bundles of fruity joy.
RER 10.7.12

[1] Personal-nutrition-guide.com “Types of Apples”
[2] buzzle.com “Different Types of Apples”
[3] Wikipedia.org “Apple”
[4] United States Department of Agriculture Household Commodity Fact Sheet “Apples, Fresh” 2009
[5] eatingwell.com “Types of Apples: The Best Apples For Baking, Cooking and Eating”
[6] Wikipedia.org “Apple”
[7] Wikipedia.org “Apple”
[8] nutrition-and-you.com, “Apple”
[9] Wikipedia.org “Apple”
[10]Wikipedia.org “Apple”
[11] buzzle.com “Different Types of Apples”
[12] Wikipedia.org “Apple”
[13] Personal-nutrition-guide.com “Types of Apples”
[14] Personal-nutrition-guide.com “Types of Apples”
[15] http://www.orangepippin.com/apples/honey-crisp
[16] eatingwell.com “Types of Apples: The Best Apples For Baking, Cooking and Eating”
[17] eatingwell.com “Types of Apples: The Best Apples For Baking, Cooking and Eating”

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