In Season: Apples

by in In Season, September 21, 2009

A few years ago I started a new family tradition: apple picking. My son loves climbing the apple trees and my daughters giggle as they munch the freshly picked ones. Get ideas for adding more apples to your fall menu, and learn just how good an apple a day can really be.

What, Where & When?
Believe it or not, apples (Malus domestica) are part of the rose family along with pears. There are more than 7,000 apple varieties grown worldwide. Some of the most common ones include Gala, McIntosh, Red and Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Macoun. They’re such a diet staple that the average American eats about 20 pounds of apples each year.

Depending on the variety, apples are available from late July through early November. Gala, Macoun and McIntosh ones are ready to go in September, so start stocking up now. Gala apples are sweet with a reddish-orange and yellow-striped skin. Deep red and golden Macoun apples have a sweeter, tarter flavor; because they’re very juicy, they’re great for applesauce. The red- and green-skinned McIntosh apples are one of the most aromatic apples around.

Other classic supermarket picks — Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji and my favorite, Granny Smith — are ripe by October. A Red Delicious is crisp and juicy with a mild flavor; look for their characteristic five-pointed lobe on the bottom. Golden Delicious also has those five bumps, but they’re yellow and very sweet. Much sweeter and firm, Fuji apples mostly come from the west coast, though some smaller orchards around the country may grow them. Granny Smiths have a light green color and are tart, firm and juicy — great for munching and baking.

Nutrition Facts
A medium apple contains 72 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 11% of your daily vitamin C (almost half the vitamin C comes from the flesh). Apples contain flavonoids (plant compounds) called phloridzin and quercetin, which researchers have tied to helping battle heart diseas and cancer. They also contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, most of which is found in the peel.

What To Do With Apples
Although my four-year old just likes to crunch on them raw, we use apples in a variety of dishes at my house. Some apples are better for snacking, while others work for cooking. When baking or pureeing (that is, making applesauce), pick apples that will remain flavorful and firm — Golden Delicious, Rome, Granny Smith, Macoun, McIntosh, Cortland and Baldwin are good choices. For eating them raw or sliced in a salad, use Red Delicious, Golden Delicious or Fuji. Golden Delicious is the most versatile apples; you can nosh on them plain or add them to many cooked dishes.

Pairing up sweet and tart apples with a chicken or pork dish helps liven up those weeknight dinners. Consider tossing a few apples in a butternut squash soup to give it some added sweetness. The apple’s pectins (a type of fiber) are a natural thickener. I also love crunchy apples in fruit or veggie salads, but I hate when the apples start turning brown before I’m done. A quick tip: squeeze lime, lemon or orange juice on them to hold off the browning.

Shopping Tip: Choose apples that are firm with shiny skin and don’t have bruising on dented parts. Avoid the overripe ones as they taste mealy. Bruised apples give off an ethylene gas that promotes ripening, which may cause foods around it to spoil (so clean out your fridge often!). Store your apples in a cool, dry place or in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to one month.

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Comments (428)

  1. Jubal says:

    Fuji apples, to me, are the best tasting, and have a firm texture. I love them raw, and even in a pie; but Granny Smith probably makes the best pie

  2. Katie says:

    pink lady apples = <3

  3. Tony says:

    Every Fall I go up to apple hill and buy Granny Smith apples for pies, they make the best pies and tarts too{mini-pie!}. I buy pie dough premade then shape it to pie shell, pre-bake shell a little while then add apples and then pour brown sugar mix with cinnamon and water, cover with dough strips, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top and finish baking. Love that pie with french vanilla ice cream! Tony at Sacramento,Ca

  4. Susan says:

    Braburn are for me! yum

  5. Merenda says:

    Jonagold apples are pure win for me. They're crisp, sweet, and tart. I call them the candy of apples they're so good.

  6. Nancy says:

    I haven't heard anyone say anything about Crispen apples. They are hard to find but are a good eating apple and stay fresh and firm for a long time. Also good for pies and applesauce.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Don't forget Honeycrisp apples… those are good too!

  8. April says:

    I prefer Northern Spy apples. They are found in New York and New England area.

  9. Adam says:

    Fuji, Braeburn, Gala, Jonagold.. my faves :)

  10. Mary says:

    I agree — Honey Crisp are wonderful! I eat tons of them — when they are available, but I've never cooked with them. I want to try them in a pie, sauce…. yum!!

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