I honestly love all things fall, especially this year, when it means the long COVID-restricted summer of 2020 is over. When I was a student, fall was my favorite time of year because I knew I’d be learning something new – starting new classes, making new friends. I love the bonfires, football and colorful leaves and even the crisp, cool nights.
Fall also makes me think of apples. With over 7,500 apple varieties grown in the world, it’s a potluck spread with crisp, tart, sweet or tangy varieties. Part of the fun is going to an apple orchard and learning about the different offerings. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember which apples are in-season, which make the best pies, and which are best eaten raw. Keep reading.
While the top apple-producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California, Illinois has plenty of orchards. September and October are the best times to visit most orchards or Farmer’s markets for apples.
We’ve all heard, “An apple a day will keep the doctor away.” And while it certainly takes more than a daily apple to keep you healthy, it is a step in the right direction. Apples are delicious, easy to carry for snacking, low in calories, high in fiber, a natural mouth freshener, and inexpensive.
Apples are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber, such as pectin, actually helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, thus helping reduce the incident of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber in apples provides bulk in the intestinal tract, holding water to cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system.
It is a good idea to eat apples with their skin. Almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin. Eating the skin also increases insoluble fiber content. Most of an apple's fragrance cells are also concentrated in the skin and as they ripen, the skin cells develop more aroma and flavor.
How many apple varieties have you tasted? Make a point this fall to try one you’ve never had before. Apples can be sweet, tart, soft and smooth or crisp and crunchy, depending on the one you choose. This fall, try Gala, Honeycrisp, Empire, Jonathan, Cortland or one of the new ones in the field – Cosmic Crisp.
Cosmic Crisp apples are a cross between Honeycrisp and Enterprise apple varieties. The name, Cosmic, refers to the apples’ starburst-like lenticels on the skin, while Crisp, links it to its parent, Honeycrisp. Currently, they are only grown in Washington State orchards. (The apple was developed at Washington State University and the apple growers in Washington state who paid for the research have exclusive rights to raise the apple for 10 years.) Cosmic Crisp apples are supposed to be slow to go brown, because of their higher levels of acidity and sugar. Local Hy-Vee stocks them each year. They have a lightly tart, yet sweet taste, but still are crisp.
Experts say the apple can stay fresh for up to a year in your refrigerator. Thicker-skinned apples like Fuji, Rome and Granny Smith will store longer than thinner-skinned apples like Red Delicious or Gala. Store unwashed apples in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
Typically, a medium sized apple has 80 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber and 8 mg of vitamin C and 10 mg of calcium.
What apples are best for baking vs eating? The best baking apples are Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, Cortland, Empire and Jonathan. The best apples for homemade applesauce are Cortland, Jonagold, Winesap, Fuji and Granny Smith.
And the best apples for eating? Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Mcintosh, Empire and Cosmic Crisp.
Here are two of my favorite recipes – one obviously more healthy than the other. The Apple Dapple cake is a family favorite from my mom and is sure to be a hit at your office or next socially-distanced, fall picnic.
Apple Chicken Salad
- 1/2 cup fat-free yogurt
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup apple jelly, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 cups cooked chicken, diced
- 2 cups finely sliced celery
- 3 apples, unpeeled and diced
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- Romaine lettuce
- In a large bowl, mix yogurt, orange juice, melted apple jelly and lemon juice.
- Add chicken, celery and apples.
- Toss gently to coat all pieces.
- Season with salt and chill until ready to serve.
- Sprinkle with pecans and serve on a bed of romaine lettuce.
- Yield 8 (3/4 cup) servings.
Apple Dapple Cake
- 1 ¼ cups cooking oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped nuts
- 3 cups chopped apples
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
- Mix the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
- Then sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon and add to the first mixture.
- Fold in the chopped nuts and apples.
- Bake in a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes.
- Let cool on a wire rack.
- For topping, mix brown sugar, milk and butter in a pan on the stove.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Punch holes in the cooled cake with a large tined fork.
- Pour sauce topping over cake and let in remain in pan at least 2 hours. Serves 16.