Red Delicious apples

Red Delicious apples (Heather Burns photo)

Back to school, fal­ling leaves, and a crisp bite in the air are all sure signs that the New England apple season has begun!

Apples are ranked among the top three most popular fruits in the world, and are available in the U.S. year round. However, nothing compares to the taste of fresh, locally grown apples.

There are over 100 varieties of apples available in the U.S., and many are grown right here in New England.

Popular New England varieties include Honey Crisp, MacIntosh, Jonagold, Cort­land, Empire, and Delicious.

Each variety features its own unique flavor palate and texture, so try sampling several varieties to find your favorite.

Certain varieties lend themselves as a better choice for cooking than others. Favorite baked apple varieties include Honey Crisp, Cortland, Gol­den Delicious, Braeburn, Pink Lady, and Empire. When baking your favorite recipes, ex­periment with different varieties to find one that suits your taste. Many experienced bakers will use several different types of apples in one recipe to get the right blend of flavor.

It is true that apple pie, apple crisp and apple-cider donuts are all fall favorite foods, but the apple is not just a “baking” staple, it is also an important part of a healthy diet.

The old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” still holds merit, as this popular fall produce packs a nutritional punch.

One medium apple offers gen­erous daily percentages of vitamin A, C, E, B1, B2, B6 and K, as well as potassium, manganese, and copper. Ap­ples are also an excellent source of fiber.

Research done by the Har­vard Medical School shows that the addition of apples to your daily diet has many health benefits.

Health benefits include im­proved cardiovascular health and a lower risk of certain cancers.

Adding apples to your diet can also help control weight gain and prevent Type 2 Dia­betes.

Studies done by the HMS have shown that those who ate one or more apples a day had a 28 percent lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes than those who ate no apples.

For weight gain control, the fiber in apples can slow down digestion and help you to feel full longer after eating. This can help curb your appetite and prevent overeating.

Everyone loves grandma's homemade apple pie, but to get the most nutritional value, apples should be eaten fresh, not baked, and with the skin on, as the skin provides most of the fiber and other nutrients.

Apples are a convenient shape and size that is perfect for travel and eating on the go just as they are, but it is simple to enjoy fresh apples in other ways, too.

Try making an “apple sandwich” for breakfast or a tasty after school treat. Take two thin apple slices to use as the “bread” of the sandwich. Be­tween the apple slices, spread peanut butter and sprinkle with some granola or trail mix. For a more sweet/sa­vory combo, place cheddar cheese in place of peanut butter and granola.

Fresh apples can also be en­joyed in an autumn flavor packed Waldorf Salad.

Mix chunks of apples with sliced celery, raisins and walnuts. Sprinkle it with lemon juice to keep the apple from browning. For the dressing, mix one-half cup of lowfat plain yogurt, two tablespoons of mayonnaise, one teaspoon of lemon zest, and sprinkle with black pepper, then fold dressing into the salad.

Nothing brushes away a crisp, fall chill like a cup of hot apple cider, but many don’t realize there is a nutritional value to cider versus apple juice.

Cider is made by mashing and pressing raw apples to extract the liquid from the fruit. The liquid is not filtered, and contains pulp and sediment. This gives cider that “cloudy” look, but also adds nutritional value that is in the pulp.

Apple juice is pressed in the same way as cider, but then it is filtered and pasteurized, to stay fresh longer. Sometimes sugar is added to the process, and when the pulp is re­moved, it also removes some of the apple’s natural tart flavor, producing a sweet uniform flavor with a slightly less impressive nutritional profile than cider.

To keep your kitchen stock­ed with seasonal apples, they can be stored on your kitchen counter for up to two weeks.

For prolonged storage, keep apples in a drawer in the refrigerator for up to two months. It is best to isolate apples from other stored produce because apples give off a natural gas called ethylene. This causes fruit to continue to ripen (and eventually rot) after it has been picked. Re­frigeration slows down that process, but it could still have an adverse effect on other produce items.

Locally grown apples are readily available in supermarkets and farm stands, but there are also many pick your own apple farms in the area offering you and your family the opportunity to enjoy the freshest product possible.

Apple picking season in New England starts in early Sep­tember, and runs until late October, so there is plenty of time left to enjoy fresh au­tumn apples.

Now that colder weather is coming, it is time to start thinking about getting back in the kitchen. What better way to prepare for upcoming fall and winter menus than with a well stocked selection of lo­cally grown apples.

To find “pick your own” apple farms and apple farm stands throughout New Eng­land, visit www.newenglandapples.org.

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