“Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.” — Henry David Thoreau, Wild Apples
Can you name the 10 most popular fruits in America? I thought this was an easy question, but I only got about half of the choices correct. The answers are: apples, bananas, pineapple, papaya, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, peaches and pears. The apple is usually one of the three most common fruit choices that people consume, the other two being bananas and oranges.
There are more than 7,500 apple varieties grown worldwide and more than 100 varieties grown commercially in the United States. Unfortunately, apples don’t grow from seeds but from trees that have to be grafted or budded. Of all the apples grown each year about 61 percent are eaten fresh and 39 percent are processed into juice and sauce. Apples can be as small as a cherry or as large as a grapefruit. The largest apple picked weighed 3 pounds. The most widely grown apple is the Red Delicious followed by the Golden Delicious. A typical apple tree will live about 100 years. The pilgrims are believed to have planted the first apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
September days are a wonderful time for an apple-picking outing with the family. Apple picking is a fall activity that gets you out for some aerobic exercise in the crisp air and you go home with some nutritious treats for the week.
The most nutritious way to eat an apple is raw, with the skin on. Almost half of the vitamin C content of an apple is found just under the skin. As an apple ripens, the skin cells develop more aroma and flavor, since most of the apple’s fragrance cells are concentrated in the skin. Apples are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Pectin, the soluble fiber, helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the walls of blood vessels, reducing your risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber in apples adds bulk to your gastrointestinal tract, holding water to cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system.
In a study just released in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Finnish researchers have
concluded that there is an association between apple consumption and a reduced risk of stroke. The study group was followed for 28 years, and researched determined that participants who ate the most apples had the lowest risk for stroke, where a blood clot starves part of the brain of oxygen. Previous studies published reported that apples were correlated with reductions in the risk of developing both heart disease and lung cancer. This was tied to the most abundant phytonutrient, quercetin. Apples are the best fruit source of quercetin. Quercetin is also found in tea, onions, nuts, berries, cauliflower and cabbage.
Nutrients in apples work in complex ways, all of which are not yet completely understood.
It is safe to say that apples and apple juice are associated with a number of health benefits. Enjoy a crispy apple today. With all of the varieties available there must be one out there to suit your tastebuds. Last year my family and I discovered Honey Crisps at NorthStar Orchards in Madison. The best tasting, crispiest apple I’ve ever eaten.
A trivia question for your Halloween party (if you are having a bobbing for apples contest):
Why do apples float? About 25 percent of the volume of an apple is air.
We all have recipes for apple pies, tarts, muffins, squares, etc. How about you try a recipe for a soup that includes apples?
1 butternut squash (or frozen butternut squash)
2 Empire apples
2 medium yellow onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
coconut flakes (to garnish, optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half, core and slice again. Peel the apples and cut them and the onions into large chunks. Spread all on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until soft. Check once or twice and turn the onions and apples so they don’t burn.
When soft use a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the squash. Cut into large chunks and place the squash, apples, onions and the 1½ cups of water in the blender. Blend until smooth.
Pour the puree in a pot with the chicken stock, cumin, curry powder, cinnamon and basil. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water or chicken stock for a thinner soup. When ready to eat, sprinkle with fresh coconut flakes. Serve with corn bread on the side.
Nutrition information: each serving: 105 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrate (5 grams dietary fiber), 2 grams protein and greater than 30 percent of daily requirement vitamin A and vitamin C.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.