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The Fruit Bowl: Apples

September 11, 2010

Apples are an unbelievable fruit.  They are great for you, quite sweet, quite large, available year round and super easy to eat.  If you have a washed apple on you, you can eat it any time.  Apples always come ripe, sometimes too ripe, so there is a key to picking your apples.  As well, there are a bunch of different varieties of apples. My favorites include the following (information supplied by the US Apple Association):

Gala

This variety originated in New Zealand, a cross between Kidd’s Orange Red and Golden Delicious. The Royal Gala strain was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, who deemed it her favorite during a visit to New Zealand. It was brought to the United States in the early 1970s, and is now one of the country’s most popular apples. This crispy, juicy, very sweet apple is ideal for snacking. Galas can vary in color, from cream to red- and yellow-striped. U.S.-grown Galas are harvested beginning in mid-July, and are typically available year-round.

Granny Smith

This Australian native was discovered in 1868 as a chance seedling by “Granny” Anne Smith of Ryde, New South Wales. One parent might have been a French Crab Apple. Grannys are known for their distinctive green flesh, which sometimes bears a red blush, and their very tart flavor. An all-purpose apple, Grannys work equally well as a snack or in pies and sauce. U.S. Grannys are harvested beginning in August, and are available year-round.

McIntosh

This is old, well-known variety, was discovered as a chance seedling by John McIntosh in 1811. Its deep red finish sometimes carries a green blush. Juicy, tangy tart McIntosh has a tender, white flesh. It is best used for snacking and applesauce, but some people enjoy its tart flavor in pies as well. (Cook’s hints: McIntosh’s flesh cooks down easily; if pie making, cut your slices thick or add a thickener). This apple is typically available from September through May.

Red Delicious

This most widely recognized of all U.S. apple varieties originated in Iowa in the 1870s. This sweet, crispy, juicy apple varies in color from striped red to solid midnight red. Western Red Delicious are elongated in shape, with pronounced “feet”; Eastern-grown Delicious are more round. This apple is best eaten fresh or in salads. Red Delicious apples are available year round, starting in September.

I love the Red Delicious the most.  To me it is a true red apple, crisp and juicy and sweet and big.  The McIntosh is a great apple as well, but it tastes like a cross between a red apple and a green apple.  It is a little tarter than a Red Delicious and a fair bit smaller, but it has a much thinner skin so it is super easy to eat.  The Granny Smith is a very tart apple, but every once in awhile it is so good to eat a tart green apple and the Granny Smith is such a simple apple to choose and keep fresh.  The Gala tastes like a cross between a red and a yellow apple.  I don’t like the yellows very much, but this apple has all of the best parts of the red with the softer skin of the yellow.  The Gala is an unbelievable all around apple.

Selection:

Apples are relatively easy to select.  The McIntosh, Gala and Granny Smith are the easiest.  All you need to do is make sure that the skin of the apple is unblemished and there are no apparent bruises.  As well test the flesh of the apple to make sure it is firm, but these apples quite often are.  The Red Delicious is harder to pick.  I think this is because they are stored for huge amounts of time in cold storage before they are shipped for sale.  In any case, Red Delicious may look good and perfect for eating when they aren’t.  To pick a good Red Delicious check the feet.  These are the little bumps on the bottom of the apple.  Push them in, all of them.  If they are firm and don’t give, then the apple should be good to go.  Sometimes I have to go through tons of apples before I find one good enough.

Ripening:

Apples come ripe and don’t need to be ripened at all.

Storage:

I store my apples in the fridge.  This makes for the freshest apples possible.  I clear out one whole crisper in the fridge for them.  It would be a great idea to do the same.  If you or your family is regularly eating apples you can always pull a few out of the fridge, wash them and put them in a fruit bowl each day, but I always find it easier to just grab the apples out of the crisper when I want one.

Serving:

Make sure you wash your apples before serving them.  I will quite often cut one into quarters or eighths and then cut the centre out of them, making them somewhat U shaped.  The kids love them this way.  At first my kids didn’t like the harder skin of the apple so I would cut it off.  I started by cutting it all off and then I started leaving a little and so on, until they were eating the peel as well.

Red Delicious will go brown after a few minutes but Granny Smith won’t go brown at all.  The Gala and McIntosh are quite resistant to going brown as well.  You can cut these apples and put them in a baggy for work or school or whatever.

One of my favorite snacks on earth is apples and cheese.  Sometimes with pickles too.  I choose a sharp cheddar and cut it into thin strips or small cubes.  This minimizes the amount of cheese I eat with the healthy apples.  This is great with a glass of wine any afternoon or evening.  As well, I will sometimes eat sliced deli ham with this snack.

Eating an apple before a meal is a great opportunity to eat fewer calories and feel full.  You can read all about doing this here.

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