Note to Reporters: The following column is written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.
Fall signals the arrival of the bountiful apple crop. The aroma of baked apples, the crunch of a juicy fresh apple and the assortment of ways to cook with apples make them a desirable fruit to keep on hand. Apples may be the original ready-to-go fast food. They are an affordable addition to any meal or snack.
Try these quick and easy ways to make apples part of your menu:
- Fresh apple crisp—Toss unpeeled, diced red and green apples with lemon or orange juice. Top with your favorite crunchy granola and chopped nuts for a quick treat.
- Apple slaw (or salad)—Grate or dice crunchy apples and add them to your favorite tossed lettuce salad or cabbage slaw for a hint of extra sweetness. Kids especially enjoy this surprise of sweetness with fresh leafy greens.
- Grilled apple skewers—Thread apple chunks and other firm fruit such as pears and pineapple on skewers. Grilling releases the juice which will combine with the sugar naturally present to result in a delicious caramelized flavor.
- Muffins and quick breads—Many muffin and quick bread recipes lend themselves to the addition of diced, peeled apples. If you’re feeling adventuresome, try adding a handful to your next batch of gingerbread.
If you keep an apple in plain sight– on your desk or in a clear bowl in the refrigerator — it’s more likely to be eaten, and that’s a good thing for your health.
- A standard-size apple has only 80 calories since it is high in water content.
- If you’re budget conscious, a fresh apple is a great buy and loaded with nutrients when compared to commercially prepared and packaged snack foods.
- The pectin naturally present in apples can moderate blood sugar levels.
- Apples contribute fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants to your diet.
- Preliminary studies indicate that apples are protective for heart health and may help inhibit cancer.
- Most of the phytonutrients and fiber are in the apple peel; if you discard it, you’ll lose about half the available beneficial fiber.
Before you bite into or cook an apple, rinse it well with fresh water to minimize pesticide residue and any bacterial contamination. You may choose to buy organically grown apples to avoid pesticide residue, but a recent study confirmed earlier findings there is no evidence of increased nutritional value, and you’ll still need to wash organic apples carefully to avoid bacterial contamination. Fresh pressed apple cider and unpasteurized juices usually found in the refrigerated section of stores may potentially be contaminated with bacteria on the apple peel. To avoid the risk of foodborne illness buy juice and cider that note on their label that they have been pasteurized.
While apple juice and cider provide nutrients, if consumed in excess, juices can be a major contributor to extra pounds both for children and adults. Because eight ounces of juice or cider contain about 120 calories, enjoy juices in moderation. Naturally present sugars can make calories add up quickly. Limit fruit juices and eat whole fruit instead—you’ll also get the added fiber and other nutrients that are discarded in the juicing process.
There are more than 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States with a large variety of apples grown in Colorado. Take advantage of locally grown apple varieties at farmers’ markets, road side stands and you-pick orchards. Apples will keep best stored in the refrigerator and can last from four to six weeks. Whether you prefer sweet and juicy or tart and firm, this list may help you choose the best apple for your taste preferences and culinary uses. The most common varieties determined to be the best for eating fresh, baking and making applesauce include:
- Eating fresh: fuji, cameo, winesap, gala, honey crisp, jonagold, granny smith, golden delicious and red delicious
- Baking pies: jonagold, granny smith, Jonathan, Rome and golden delicious
- Making applesauce: Jonathan, gala, granny smith, Rome and golden delicious
Contact your local CSU Extension Office for more information on apples or visit http://www.farmtotable.colostate.edu/eat.php.