Appreciating The Apple

Apples2

Leah from Around the Plate speaks the truth: 

Apples have got it all: delicious, crunchy, inexpensive, naturally fat free, sodium free, and rich in dietary fiber. Apples make a fantastic snack and are a versatile ingredient for many healthy and creative recipes. Whether you want something on the lighter side or a more indulgent treat, apples are a versatile ingredient for many healthy and creative

I’m not a huge fan of apples by themselves, but I’ve always liked them for their diversity of uses. 

Pie, cobbler, streudel, etc. all go without saying. Ditto for cider. Anything with apples, butter, cinnamon and sugar is bound to be good. 

Because of their texture and mild sweetness I think apples are a great complimentary ingredient in salads and sandwiches. I love me a waldorf salad as long as it’s not soaked in mayonnaise or vinegar. 

Here are some recipes for “the basics”:

1). Waldorf salad

2). Apple Pie

3). Spiced apple cider

4). Apple dumplings

5). A good list of old-fashioned apple recipes

I won’t pretend to be an exotic food snob, but here are some fancier dishes for those of you with an adventurous palette:

1). Gingered sweet potato-apple salad

2). Apple-spinach lasagna

3). Apple burgers

Curious Facts About The Apple

Aside from their culinary uses, the history, economics, and biology of apples is fascinating too. Here are the most interesting tidbits:

Apples belong to the rose family of plants.

Apples originated in central Asia in eastern Turkey, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and China.

There are over 7,500 different cultivars of apples.

China is the world’s largest producer of apples, and to my surprise, Iran is third. The USA is second.

The apple genome has about 57,000 genes, which is almost twice as many as the human genome.

Apples symbolize fertility in Pagan and Nordic folklore

Commercially grown apples are fairly similar in their shapes, texture, and taste, but non-cultivated strains vary quite a bit. According to some they taste better too. However, they’re not grown for typical reasons: sensitivity to environment, low-yields, and susceptibility to disease. 

Nutrition

Apples have relatively low levels of vitamin C compared to other fruits and vegetables, but they’re good sources of fiber (particularly the skin) and have high concentrations of phenolic compounds, which may give the fruit mild anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

As a general rule, the skins contain most of the apples nutrients, so be sure to eat them when you’re snacking.

Some studies have linked apple consumption to enhanced cognitive functioning. For example, in one study apple juice concentrate displayed an ability to maintain levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in a vitamin deficient diet, and a few other studies by the same authors suggested apples can help prevent cognitive decline. 

While these studies are interesting, they should be taken with a grain of salt. They’re performed on mice, not humans, and there’s not nearly enough evidence to make the results conclusive.

Sources: 

Fratianni F, Coppola R, Nazzaro F. Phenolic composition and antimicrobial and antiquorum sensing activity of an ethanolic extract of peels from the apple cultivar annurca. J Med Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):957-63. Epub 2011 Apr 10. PubMed PMID: 21476926

Chan A, Graves V, Shea TB. Apple juice concentrate maintains acetylcholine levels following dietary compromise. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Aug;9(3):287-91. PubMed PMID: 16914839.

Wolfe K, Wu X, Liu RH. Antioxidant activity of apple peels. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Jan 29;51(3):609-14. PubMed PMID: 12537430.

Nutrition to Reduce Cancer, Stanford Medicine Center;

Tchantchou F, Chan A, Kifle L, Ortiz D, Shea TB. Apple juice concentrate prevents oxidative damage and impaired maze performance in aged mice. J Alzheimers Dis. 2005 Dec;8(3):283-7. PubMed PMID: 16340085

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