by MONICA MARCU
Now that you’ve said goodbye to the colorful, delicious berries, don’t despair!
We can take heart in one of fall’s jewels – the apple. Famous (no fruit pops up so frequently in literature and arts as the apple), diverse (there are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, while only two varieties of commercial banana, by contrast), crisp and healthy, the apple is here to stay for a while, especially if you have a good cellar.
The apple started the Trojan War, and an apple tree started our orchard.
Indeed, even here, in this rather cold valley, the apple trees can flourish, as they can grow in almost any soil and are very adaptable and versatile. Actually, you can even “invent” your own variety: apple trees are of “extreme heterozygosity’, which means an apple grown from seed will be certainly different from its parents. There are no sterile apples. This is great for evolution, and allowed the spreading of apples to every environment, but it is a nightmare for the apple growers who intent to preserve certain, selected favorites.
The only guarantee of reproducibility is grafting. Although we know the “many-times-grandparent” apple tree originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Turkey, or Armenia (where the wild Malus orientalis still lives), we do not know the origin of most of our favorite apples, they seem to have arisen by chance.
But variety, we have: Cameo, Gala, Pippin, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Jonagold, Belle de Boskoop, to name just a few. Despite the apparent diversity, over 85 per cent of the thousands of apple types existing before last century have been lost, and today we have on the market only 11 varieties, of which Red Delicious predominates. “An apple a day, no doctor to pay” seems to be validated by science and tradition.
The Egyptian pharaoh Ramses had an apple orchard in 13th century BC, while in the 16th century, John Caius, a doctor to three British monarchs, advised his patients to: “smele to an old swete apple and regain strengthe”.
Apples are very rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties, and they have been associated with decreased risks of chronic diseases. Most of the beneficial substances are found in the skin, but beware of the presence of pesticides as well, unless an organic apple.
It is safer to peel the skin of commercial apples, as they are intensely sprayed and treated. Apples can boost the growth of good, friendly bacteria in the gut, thus promoting a healthy immune system and digestion.
The fruit seems to be very beneficial to neurological health, studies have found that quercetin (a potent antioxidant abundant in apples) reduces neuronal death caused by inflammation and premature aging.
Apple juice consumption may increase the production of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine, thus resulting in improved memory. Apples have shown multiple health benefits in diabetes, asthma, breast, colon, lung cancer and other types of cancer, reducing “bad” cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, and risk of stroke.
Apples contain substances like boron and phloridzin that can strengthen the bones of menopausal women. One word of caution, though, most apples are quite acidic, they could be damaging the teeth, so rinse with water after eating one.
It is not difficult to be creative with cooking apples – fresh are the best, but chop them into a salad, bake them in a pie, blend them into a hearty soup and you made yourself a treat.
To preserve apples refrigeration is best. For winter storage, select late crops (October) like Red Delicious, Ida Red, Crispin, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Mutsu. Before placing apples in a basket for storage, examine them and select the “keepers”, while avoid bruising.
Only those perfect apples should be selected for long-term storage. Prevent contact between apples by individually wrapping them in newspaper or other paper.