Prairie Fare: Americans love apples, a fruit that has stood the test of timeThe other day, I was admiring our prolific apple tree through my kitchen window and pondering how we should use and share all of the rosy red fruit. Last year, we made jelly, pies, dried apples and apple juice.
By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM
The other day, I was admiring our prolific apple tree through my kitchen window and pondering how we should use and share all of the rosy red fruit. Last year, we made jelly, pies, dried apples and apple juice.
I gave away bags and bags of apples. If people stopped by to visit, they left with some apples. I think people were starting to avoid me.
We certainly were promoting the consumption of apples.
On average, Americans consume about 50 pounds of fresh apples and processed apple products, including juice, every year. At just 70 calories for a medium-sized fruit, apples are a portable, nutrient-rich snack.
Apples are members of the rose family, and 2,500 varieties are grown in the U.S.
According to archeologists, we humans have been consuming them since 6500 B.C.
Throughout history, many health benefits have been associated with apples, ranging from relief of stomach problems and nervous conditions to serving as beauty aids. While not all of these apple anecdotes have withstood the test of science, researchers continue to study the health benefits associated with apples.
The latest dietary advice recommends that we fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables. Apples are a good addition to our plate. Apples provide soluble fiber (pectin), vitamin C and natural antioxidants.
You probably want to eat the apple peel whenever possible. Many cancer-fighting phytochemicals (plant chemicals) are concentrated in the skin of the apple.
Cornell University researchers reported that about 3 ounces of unpeeled fresh apple provides the antioxidant activity of 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.
Most of us have heard the expression that begins with “an apple a day.” Is there any truth to deterring physician visits by munching on a daily apple?
Researchers have reported that regularly eating apples can help lower blood cholesterol, which in turn can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
University of California-Davis researchers reported that eating two apples or drinking 12 ounces of apple juice a day protected arteries from plaque buildup.
However, is apple juice safe to drink? Despite all the recent media attention paid to apple juice and arsenic, the Food and Drug Administration has reassured consumers that apple juice is safe. The testing method used on a recent TV show was not deemed appropriate for use with apple juice, and the level and type of arsenic is not considered a health risk. For more information, see the FDA website at www.fda.gov.
However, if you make your own apple juice, be sure to heat the juice to 160 degrees to kill harmful bacteria that might be present. After heating it, place it in a pitcher or other container and store it in your refrigerator.
When you select apples at the grocery store, farmer’s market or your backyard, look for firm apples free of blemishes and cuts to the skin. Color isn’t always an indication of quality. According to horticulture experts, the reddest apple isn’t necessarily the best- tasting apple.
When picking an apple from a tree, try to avoid pulling. Instead, lift the fruit toward the sky to release the stem from the tree. This helps avoid damaging the apple tissue and can lengthen the apple’s storage life.
Although whole apples are safe to keep at room temperature for several days, their crunchy texture and flavor may change. For best quality, store apples in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator separate from other produce.
Be sure to rinse apples thoroughly with plenty of running water. Do not use detergents or soaps to clean apples because these cleaning agents can leave residues on the fruit.
If you have an abundance of apples, consider freezing, drying or canning apples.
You can learn more about preserving apples, as well as many other types of fruits and vegetables, by visiting the NDSU Extension Service food preservation materials at www.ag.ndsu.edu/food or by contacting an Extension Service agent in your area.
Here’s a quick and easy dessert to make using one of autumn’s hallmark fruits.
Easy Microwave Applesauce
6 cups apple slices
¼ cup water
1/3 cup sugar (or to taste)
¼ tsp. cinnamon or nutmeg (if desired)
Rinse, then peel, core and slice the apples. Mix all of the ingredients in a 2-quart microwave-safe baking dish. Cover and cook the apples in a microwave oven on high power for six to eight minutes. For a chunky applesauce, use a potato masher or pastry blender to mash. Alternatively, for a smoother applesauce, puree cooked apples in a blender or food processor.
Makes six servings. Each serving has 110 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 1 g of protein, 29 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and 0 milligrams of sodium.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.