Eat Local! Apples
October 31, 2017
Although an apple is quite a common fruit, it offers more than just a juicy, crunchy snack fix. Apples are bursting with nutrients and a variety of diverse flavors from sweet to sour, and the autumn months serve as the perfect time to pick some apples and add them to your daily menu.
Apples are thought to have originated in the Middle East near the Caspian Sea. Apples have a rich history in folklore and mythology, serving as a symbol of love, marriage, and immortality in Greek and Persian mythology, and representing the sun and good luck in Celtic culture. Apples appear in the Brothers Grimm fairytale Snow White as a poisonous fruit. Apples also have biblical significance for temptation in the Garden of Eden as the forbidden fruit. Many of us have heard of the legend of Johnny Appleseed, who was a real orchardist named John Chapman who planted apple tree nurseries and spread the culture of apple farming across Indiana and Ohio in the late 18th and early 19th century.
The classic phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may have some merit when it comes to health. Apple skins are a rich source of the plant compound quercetin, a type of antioxidant that can help regulate blood sugar after meals by delaying the surge of sugar into the bloodstream. The antioxidant capabilities of apples can also help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and asthma. Some research shows that regular apple consumption can boost the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestine needed to prevent infection and maintain a healthy gut. Furthermore, studies show that regular apple eaters maintain trimmer waist lines.
According to the U.S. Apple Association, Idaho is among one of the top 10 apple producing states. There are thousands of apple varieties grown today. Red Delicious, sweet Gala, and Fuji apples (originally developed in Japan) make excellent snack apples or salad toppers. Tart Granny Smith, golden green Crispin, or mildly flavored Golden Delicious apples are excellent choices for baking. McIntosh, Crispin, and Honeycrisp apples (known for their honey flavor and crunchiness, as the name implies) are also great for snacking and making applesauce. Pink Lady (notable for their bright pink hue) and Empire apples (a cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh developed in New York) make great all around eating apples.
Select apples that are firm, free of bruising, and have a juicy, fragrant aroma. Apples will keep in the fridge for 4-6 weeks. If slicing apples for your sack lunch, drizzle some vitamin C-rich lemon juice over them to prevent browning from oxidation. Toss sliced apples into oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, salads, bake in the oven with cinnamon for a tasty fall treat, slice and grill for a savory side dish or sweet dessert, use as a pizza topping and sprinkle with goat cheese or balsamic reduction, or enjoy as a snack paired with sharp cheddar or creamy almond butter. The possibilities are endless!
Warm Roasted Apple, Broccolini, and White Cheddar Salad (recipe from the U.S. Apple Association):
- 3/4 pound broccolini
- 3 Gala apples
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup raw walnut pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 6 ounces white cheddar cheese, cubed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Trim ends of broccolini. Slice any large stalks in half for even roasting. Core apples and cut each into 8 wedges.
- Place broccolini and apples in single layer on large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Roast 10 minutes. Stir and sprinkle with walnuts. Roast for 5 more minutes.
- Remove from oven. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let cool 5 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl. Add cheese cubes and toss to combine. Serve warm.
Roasted Pumpkin-Apple Soup (recipe from Eating Well Magazine):
- 4 pounds pie pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks *see Tip
- 4 large sweet-tart apples, such as Empire, Cameo or Braeburn, unpeeled, cored and cut into eighths
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1¼ teaspoons salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- ⅓ cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted *see Tip
- 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Toss pumpkin (or squash), apples, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring once, for 30 minutes. Stir in sage and continue roasting until very tender and starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes more.
- Transfer about one-third of the pumpkin (or squash) and apples to a blender along with 2 cups broth. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a Dutch oven and repeat for two more batches.
- Season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and heat through over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent splattering, for about 6 minutes. Serve each portion topped with hazelnuts and a drizzle of hazelnut oil.
*Tips: Make it easier to cut a pumpkin, acorn squash or other winter squash: pierce in several places with a fork; microwave on High for 45 to 60 seconds. Use a large sharp knife to cut in half. Remove the seeds and stringy fibers with a spoon.
*To toast chopped nuts, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. If you can’t find hazelnuts, you can try using pecans, walnuts, or pepitas (mini pumpkin seeds).
Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and food and health blogger and freelance writer.