Thursday, July 20, 2017  

Aweome Apples: Where to Begin and End with Natire's Bounty


Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard. — Walt Whitman

by Melissa Shearwood

When it comes to fruit in Virginia, nothing says tasty and delicious like fresh apples. From the first bite that Eve took from an apple, to Sir Isaac Newton being hit in the head by an apple falling from a tree and formulating the laws of gravity to William Tell proclaiming, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, it is easy to see that apples hold an extremely important place in our history and our health.

Be it red, green or gold, apples have a versatility that remains a constant from our forefathers to today. The health benefits of apples were discovered long ago, which is one reason they are such a popular fruit, another reason being, they just taste good. William Tell was on to something too. This delicious fruit has been shown to lower bad cholesterol (aiding in cardiovascular disease prevention), reduce the risk of heart disease, slow the growth of colon cancer and liver cancer cells and lower the risk of thrombotic stroke; all due to antioxidant phytonutrients found in apples. Apples also contain flavonoids that appear to reduce the risk of lung cancer and improve lung function because of the antioxidants. Adding apples to your daily diet also helps strengthen bones.

Apple peels have been known to be used in herbal remedies. Raw apples are said to reduce plaque on teeth and prevent tooth decay. Eaten after meals, apples have been known to reduce acidity in the stomach and aid in preventing heartburn and indigestion. Medically, apples are also known to help detoxify blood, aid in treatment of arthritis, rheumatism and gout. Used as a late night snack, they are said to help dull insomnia and help one sleep better. Stewed apples are even alleged to be a natural laxative and also used to help reduce fevers.

For being such a small treasure, an apple packs a lot of punch. They are relatively low in calories, high in fiber and contain niacin, potassium, iron and phosphorous magnesium, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2 and C. Talk about healthy. An apple is basically its own little health food store.

Items made with alpaca fleece are widespread. There are finger puppets, toys and the softest possible stuffed animals
for children, as well as socks, sweaters and jackets for all to enjoy. There are blankets, hats and scarves to keep you
comfy too. Any garment made from alpaca is sure to be a treasure or become a family heirloom to be passed down
to the next generation.

Virginia Apples

In Virginia, there is an apple for every reason and every season. Virginia is a very prominent grower, producing an average of 5 to 6 million bushels of apples each year on over 160,000 acres of land. Rich apple country in Virginia includes the mountainous regions of the Shenandoah Valley throughout the Roanoke Valley and counties of Rappahannock, Patrick, Albermarle and Carroll. Over one half of Virginia grown apples are sold for processing and in turn made into products such as apple juice, applesauce, apple butter and cider. The Virginia apple industry contributes approximately $235 million to the state’s economy each year.

Out of the many dozens of popular apple varieties world-wide, Virginia grows about eleven of them and each is know for its different characteristics. All-time favorites include the Red and Golden Delicious with the Red Delicious being by and large sweeter, juicier and crisper than most other apples. The Delicious varieties account for approximately one-third of the apples raised in the entire United States. Virginia growers also harvest York, Winesap, Rome, Stayman, Gala, Ginger Gold, Jonathan, Fuji and Granny Smith.

Red Delicious apples are available year round and are either solid red or striped red in a classic heart shape. They are bred to be an eating apple and are unsuitable for baking. They are most well known for their crispness and sweetness. They are best used for snacking, salads and ciders.

Golden Delicious apples are also available year round and are a yellowish green. Also known for their crispness and sweetness, they are best used for not only snacking and salads but the best all around cooking apples and perfect for also pies and applesauce.

York apples are harvested from October through February and are known to be misshapen and look to be leaning sideways. They are deep red with green streaks and are firm with a sweet/tart flavor. Yorks are excellent for cooking and freezing.

Winesap apples are harvested September through March and are mostly red, extra firm and aromatic with a spicy, tangy/sweet flavor. They make some of the best apple cider, applesauce and are a good baking apple and store well over long periods.

Rome apples are also harvested year round and are deep solid red in color. They are firm and sweet and used for applesauce, baking and pies.

Stayman apples are harvested from October through March and have a lovely crimson color. They are crisp and have a distinctive sweet/tart flavor. This is an ideal, grown for everything apple. Its robust taste is perfect for snacking and baking and it holds its shape well under heat. They make outstanding apple butter and applesauce as well.
Gala apples are mostly harvested between August and March and vary in color from red to orange with yellow stripes. They are crisp and sweet as well and are best suited for snacking, salads, applesauce and freezing for later use.
Ginger Gold apples are typically harvested August through November and are green-yellow and sometimes have a blush color to them. They are crisp and can be sweet or tart and are suited for snacking and salads.

Jonathan apples are harvested from September through April and are light red stripes over deep red or yellow. These are known to be less firm and are tart with a spicy or tangy flavor. They are mostly used for pies and baking and they hold their shape well when baked. They are also processed commercially into a wide range of products for consumption.

Fuji apples are available year round and are red blush colored with yellow stripes or green. They are crisp and sweet or spicy in taste. Fujis are best used for salads, snacking and freezing.

Granny Smith apples are harvested year round and are usually green but occasionally pinkish blush in color. They are crisp and one of the most popular tart apples used for snacking and applesauce. An excellent all-purpose cooking apple and their flavor is greatly enhanced when paired with sweeter, spicier apples in pies, salads and baking in general.

Entertaining Apples

In a custom that seems to be diminishing, one used to attend fall festivals, family gatherings and birthday parties where apple bobbing was the event of the day. Hosts would fill a wash basin with water and several apples and enthusiasts would place both hands behind their backs and attempt to dunk their heads into the water to catch an apple in their mouth. The ones that succeeded were rewarded with eating their catch.

Apple dolls are a form of folk art originating from early American settlers that made dolls from whatever they could get their hands on. Apple dolls are made by carving a face in an apple, soaking it in salt and lemon juice briefly and letting it dry. No two dolls are ever alike due to the distinctive drying effects. Paint and beads are used to create cheek color, lips and eyes. Some people also make apple hands and feet to go on their dolls. The next step is to make a body out of batting and wire. Finally, after poking wire into the top of the head and thru the bottom, you use the wire to attach the head to the body, doing the same with the hands and feet. All wire pieces wrap around the body and make the doll posable also. Then add clothes and there sits a lovely piece of true folk art.

Cooking with Apples

Apples are a terrific snack when it comes to staving off hunger and they are packed with nutrients not wasted calories. Applesauce is a wonderful fat free substitute to recipes that call for oil or shortening. Not only is it healthier, when used in baking, applesauce makes baked good more moist. When caring for your apples, it is best to store apples in the refrigerator because they loose their crispness if stored at room temperature. Place them in a perforated plastic bag and store them in the crisper. Take care not to store older, bruised or cut apples with fresh apples or they will make the newer ones spoil more quickly. To prevent browning of sliced apples, quickly soak the slices in a mixture of three parts water to one part lemon juice. There is also a solution of ascorbic acid, available at most grocery stores that will ward off browning.

There are as many ways to prepare apples as there are apple varieties. Anyone with children has certainly discovered apple juice and applesauce are permanent fixtures on a child’s menu. Don’t forget those specialties at carnivals or fairs…caramel, chocolate covered and candy apples, treats for the young and young at heart.

Apple butter, made from slowly cooked then pureed apples, has been a long time favorite for generations. It is a spread that adds wonderful flavor to pancakes, waffles, toast and anything else you desire.

Be sure to mix tart apples with sweet apples when baking to have a balanced flavor. During special events an apple can be hollowed out and baked with your favorite stuffing or filled with dips or spreads for guests. Apple recipes are overly abundant on the internet. They blend perfectly with other fruits and vegetables as well and the combinations are never ending. From apple turnovers, apple dumplings, apple cake, apple cider, apple cobbler, apple crisp, apple fritter, apple strudel, baked apples, apple Danish, spiced apples, apple compote, applesauce cake, apple bread,
apple brown Betty to apple slaw, zucchini and apple casserole, there is a recipe including apples for every day of the year. And let us not forget the national treasure of a dessert…apple pie, there are so many variations, one could probably make a new one for each week for a year as well.

Apples for Decorating

Apples have been used to beautify homes and parties for centuries, especially during holidays. They can be fresh and colorful or dried and dehydrated, either way, they aid in creating a timeless design. Fresh apples can be made into garlands, wreaths, and swags, added to flower arrangements or just placed in a bowl to instantly perk up a table. A good rule of thumb when decorating with apples is to spray them and rub them down with a very thick floor wax to prolong their longevity and give them a perfect shine.

Dried apples are very popular in arrangements, swags and wreaths and may be used as a potpourri (paired with cinnamon and/or cloves). Merely floating dried or fresh apples with fresh flowers in a bowl of water as a centerpiece makes an elegant statement as well.

Apples can also be cored and cleaned and used as mini flower vases or even candle holders, just place a votive candle or electric votive inside and it unleashes a surprising glow.

If you are lucky enough to live near or visit an apple orchard, take the time to create wonderful memories with your family and enjoy picking some of nature’s most amazing fruits. Apples are surely one of our most versatile fruits, not only good for your health but an excellent addition to all things food and decorating. Eat them fresh, add them to salads, baked them into desserts, add them to dressings/stuffing or as sides with meats like veal, chicken and pork. Their flavor always makes your taste buds do a little dance. Nothing says ‘Thanksgiving’ quite like a cornucopia basket decorated with apples, fruits, gourds and fall leaves. Just by using your imagination you can work apples into every aspect of your lifestyle, from decorating to eating and all things in between.