There is much folklore and symbolism surrounding the noble apple, as Thoreau dubbed it. During the Depression farming families could only afford this wonderful fruit as payment for their child’s education, hence the notion of giving an apple to the teacher. Not to mention that an apple a day will do a lot more than just keep the doctor away. It’s no surprise to anyone that apples are a great source of a variety health benefits. Apples are low in calories, and have no fat, sodium or cholesterol. They are high in Vitamins A, Bs, C and Folate and contain phytochemicals and phytonutrients. (Phytonutrients help lower LDL or bad cholesterol.) The fiber content in one apple is about equal to a serving of bran cereal, and pectin helps keep your digestive system regular by removing toxins and other harmful substances from your body. When you feel like reaching for that 4:00 candy bar, think about grabbing an apple instead. Apples do contain sugar, but the complex carbohydrates won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar.
Though some historians are in dispute over exactly who first cultivated the wild apple. Many believe it was the Romans but some say the origins were rooted in Southwestern Asia. Others note that apple seeds found in Asia Minor were carbon dated 6500 BCE and there have even been fossilized imprints of an apple seeds from the Neolithic period found in England. For us, the apple made it’s way to the America’s in the 17th century by the colonists. John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, is credited for planting many apple nurseries that stretched from Pennsylvania to Illinois.
Generally we have apples all year round now. Living in a global world we have access to foods pretty much whenever we desire. However, nothing beats eating a fruit or vegetable in the height of the season, and freshly picked. Apples started making an appearance at our farmers markets a few weeks ago, but get ready, they are about to burst on the scene in the coming weeks.
Apples are harvested July through December, so now is the perfect time to find them. If you get them from the farmers’ market chances are they have just been picked, so look for firm and blemish free fruit. If purchasing in the grocery store look for organically grown apples. You may also notice a thin film of wax. That is to protect them during transport.
Once home you want to store them in a cool spot. Apples keep best and longest when refrigerated. Unrefrigerated, apples can become mushy in just a few days. Always wash apples thoroughly before eating or cutting to reduce intake of pesticide residues or bacterial contaminants that result from handling. Remember, whatever is on the outside will be carried inside with your knife! If the fruit is waxed it’s best to just peel the skin off. To prevent browning simply toss the cut apple into a bowl of cold water with a little lemon or lime juice. The acid will help keep it from oxidizing.
Just Google “apple recipes” and the top of the hit list will be pies and muffins. But apples are delicious in savory dishes as well. Just add a few ingredients like couscous and leftover chicken and you have a sweet and savory winner.
For this week’s recipe, Apple, Chicken and Couscous Salad, after sautéing a leek I added a little chicken stock and couscous. Halfway through the cooking time I added apples, chicken and fresh thyme. Topped with a lemon vinaigrette you have a quick dish in under 30 minutes, and a great way to use leftover rotisserie chicken.
Click this link to see my quick and easy how-to video.
This weekend you can find me at the Pleasantville Farmers Market. Stop by my table between 10:00 and Noon to share your favorite apple recipe with me.