Apples - Absolutely Awesome!
by Paulette Millis
A is for apple. Remember learning the alphabet? We now know A is for Absolutely Awesome Apples!
The apple has been around so long it could be called the first fruit. Tombs of the ancient Egyptians suggest the apple was used both as a food and a medicine. Apples are so popular now that some sources say the average consumer eats nineteen pounds of fresh apples a year.
Did you know horticulturalists have catalogued about 7,500 varieties of apples around the world? Did you know most apples have five seeds? Each apple contains five seed pockets, and each pocket usually contains one seed.
Apples are best picked in the fall when fully ripe. There are early and late varieties, various sizes, colours, flavours, and textures. Is there anyone out there who hasn't tried Ambrosia? Truly a delight! Common varieties are Macintosh, Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Gala, and Fuji. Some varieties are best eaten raw while others are better cooked or sauced. Experiment for your own taste preference. Anytime you have a bag of apples that are not being eaten, just make applesauce.
If you are blessed with an apple tree in your backyard, pick the fruit carefully without bruising the apple or damaging the fruit spur, the small branch from which the apple grows. Use bruised apples and windfalls immediately as they spoil quickly. Early varieties are best eaten or preserved as they don't store as well as late varieties, which will keep for months in cold storage. Untended apple trees are worthwhile as well, for excellent juice and applesauce. In fact, unsprayed, homegrown apples are precious, in that there are no chemicals used, unlike commercial varieties.
What food could be more versatile than the apple? Besides eating them raw, we make juice, pies, pancakes, baked apples, apple butter, apple cider, cakes, muffins, cookies, sauce, jelly, jam, apple leather, and we can them, dry them, use them in salads, and sometimes in casseroles.
NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL INFORMATION
One fresh apple a day gives us amazing nutrients and healing benefits. Apples contain potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, boron, vitamins A, B, and C, as well as being low-fat and a great source of fibre. Most of the vitamins and minerals and fibre are in or just under the skin, and the skins are rich in pectin and flavour. Ideally, purchase organic apples for the best nutrition and least pesticide contamination. See information below on using the apple skins.
Studies show apples lower blood cholesterol, improve bowel function, reduce risk of stroke, prostate cancer, type II diabetes, asthma, and allergies, and they show a potential decrease in the risk of cancer and heart disease. Apples may help prevent recurrent gout attacks and help maintain the health of Crohn's sufferers.
Research in Finland indicates a 46 percent reduction in lung cancer in those with a high intake of apples, and that two apples a day reduces the damaging effects of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol. A Cornell University study reports reproduction of colon cancer cells were inhibited by 43 percent from the phytochemicals in the apple skin. University of Nottingham researchers state those who eat five apples per week had a lower risk for respiratory disease.
What are these amazing nutrients? Quercetin is a flavonoid that is abundant in apples. A new study suggests it changes the way colon tissue lives and grows, right down to the cellular level. Quercetin works as an anti-inflammatory, anti-allergen, anti-histamine, as well as an anti-oxidant. It amps up the amount of protein in colon cells that protect against cancer, AND decreases the amount of the three other proteins that promote tumour growth. Anti-oxidants gobble up free radicals before they can cause cell damage. Quercetin is found predominately in the peels.
New research (January 2006) indicates "an apple a day" contributes to protecting against cell damages that contribute to age-related memory loss. This new study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, but the author states apples and apple juice protect brain cells not only from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's but may promote brain health in normal aging.
Anti-oxidants keep collagen healthy, protect eyes and nerves from inflammation and damage, (for example diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration), and improve symptoms of arthritis, allergies, and asthma.
The fibre content of one medium apple is approximately five grams, more than is in most cereals! This is a significant contribution to the 25 grams needed daily by women, and 38 grams for men, and contains approximately 22 grams of total carbohydrate, of which 1.6 grams is sugar. United States Department of Agriculture reported apples ranked among the top foods in total phenolic content and anti-oxidant capacity.
Apples are one of the richest sources of pectin. In addition to the benefits mentioned (lowers cholesterol, colon cancer) pectin acts as an anti-diarrhea agent, reduces high blood pressure, and helps in prevention and regression of gall stones.
BUYING, COOKING, AND STORING
Having your own apple tree means picking them immediately when they are at their peek of ripeness and preserving or storing them as soon as possible. Late varieties store well in a root cellar or other cool place. Different varieties keep for different lengths of time. Refrigerate early varieties for no longer than two weeks. Ideally, store apples without any blemishes or bruises at 32°F with high humidity, in open containers. If the storage area is cool and dry, individually wrap apples in newspaper and place in closed containers, for example a box lined with a plastic bag with a few holes cut in it. Do not store apples near other stored veggies as they may absorb odours, and their moisture can cause potatoes to sprout.
To preserve your crop, you may can them, dry them, freeze them, or make apple sauce or apple jelly.
To can chunks or slices of varieties that hold their shape, simply drop the pieces into boiling juice, a light syrup made with a natural sweetener, or water. Cook five minutes, remove with a strainer and fill jars, and repeat with more apples. Add whole spices to the jar, add boiling cooking liquid leaving one-half inch headroom, process in boiling water bath fifteen minutes for pints and twenty minutes for quarts.
The nutrient content of dried apples is the next best thing to fresh. Slice and dry them in a dehydrator, or on a cookie sheet in the oven for three hours at 175°F. You may also thread peeled, cored, and sliced apples on a string and hang to dry until leathery, or until no moisture shows when broken or squeezed.
You may freeze apples but they have a poor texture when thawed. Sprinkle one-half teaspoon ascorbic acid powder diluted in three tablespoons water over chunks or slices, or pack in acidic fruit juice, for example pineapple, or orange or water flavoured with lemon juice.
Buying fresh apples from a local grower is best, as nothing beats an apple that hasn't travelled thousands of miles, and possibly been subjected to chemicals during storing and trucking. We do have apple orchards now in Saskatchewan! Take advantage of these each fall.
When buying apples, be sure they are firm. The look of a perfect apple isn't necessary, although avoid bruises and brown spots. Store your apples in the fridge, away from veggies to avoid odour absorption.
Wash well, preferably with a fruit wash, to remove contaminants on the skin. To minimize browning of apple slices or chunks dip them in a bowl of water with a bit of lemon juice, or three parts water to one part citrus juice. Fruit Fresh works, as well.
Apples may be cored with a corer, made into slices, wedges, rings, chunks, or sticks. When peeling organic apples, save the skins to make tea.
APPLE BUTTER (1)
Add spices and some natural sweetener such as agave, honey, or brown rice syrup to applesauce and cook until very thick. Serve.
APPLE BUTTER (2)
4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 cup pure water
1 cup apple cider
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
agave or brown rice syrup if needed
Cook the apples in the liquid until soft. Pass through a food mill, or blend. Add sweetener to taste. Add spices, rind, and lemon juice and cook over very low heat until thick and dark brown. This may take 3 to 4 hours. Use within one or two weeks, or pour into hot sterilized jars and seal tightly. Store in fridge.
-adapted from www.bestapples.com/recipes
Bake whole washed apples without peeling or coring. When soft, scrape the sauce away from the peels and cores.
-from The Kitchen Gardener's Companion
Wash and quarter apples and remove core. Place in a large stainless steel soup pot and add just enough water to keep them from sticking to the bottom. Sprinkle ascorbic acid powder (vitamin C) over apples, stir to combine, cover, and simmer, stirring often, until soft. Cool slightly and blend until a puree and the skins are no longer visible. Freeze in small containers for later use, or eat fresh. My favourite apple snack is a bowl of this homemade applesauce with a tablespoon of hemp seeds, a bit of agave syrup to sweeten, and yogurt or cream if the diet allows dairy products, and Silk Creamer for dairy free. Yummy!
3 pounds tart apples, stems removed
one 4-6 ounce piece fresh ginger,
peeled and coarsely chopped or
2-3 tablespoons ground ginger
2 cups cranberry juice (preferably sweetened with natural sweeteners)
Place the apples in a 6-quart pot. Add the fresh ginger. If using ground ginger, wait until the end to add. Add cranberry juice. Cook on low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring frequently. Add water if necessary. When the apples are cooked through and soft, force through a sieve or stainless steel strainer into a bowl. Add ground ginger now if using. Allow to cool. Serve warm or cold.
Into each apple, stuff 1 pitted date, 1 pitted prune, 1 tsp chopped almonds or pine nuts, 5 dried cranberries, 1/2 tsp butter, and 1/2 tsp fruit jam (preferably made with natural sweeteners). Sprinkle ground cardamom on top of apples. Place in a shallow baking dish and pour 1/2 to 1 cup water or apple juice/cider over them. Bake uncovered, until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Add more water if necessary during baking if it evaporates. Prick with a fork and when soft they are done. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. You may want to pour a little cream milk or Silk Creamer (soy cream), or a dollop of yogurt over each apple to serve.
-thanks to Gerry Yakimoski for this recipe
1 cup milk of choice (nut milk, Rice Dream, Almond Breeze, etc.)
2 apples, washed, peeled, cored,
2 tbsp hemp seeds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Process in blender until smooth. Serve.
Place apple peels in saucepan, add water and a touch of cinnamon, or a few mint leaves. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer 10-15 minutes. Strain and serve.
Variation: dry apple peels. Pour 1-2 cups boiling water over a handful of peels and let steep for a few minutes. May add anise, fennel, coriander, cinnamon, mint, nutmeg, rosehips, or other spices for additional flavours. Strain and serve.
3-5 pounds apples
bit of natural sweetener if desired
e.g. brown rice syrup
1/8 cup lemon juice, optional
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Peel, core, and slice apples. Cook uncovered in a heavy saucepan over low heat. If apples are dry, add a little water to prevent sticking or burning. Cook until they look like applesauce, and then continue cooking until they appear like apple butter.
Add sweetener, if using, or lemon juice if apples are not tart enough. Add the spices. Combine well and cook a little longer to allow flavours to blend. When apple mixture clings to the spoon, remove from heat and cool in uncovered saucepan. Spread mix evenly and thinly on 2 parchment paper-lined cookie sheets and let dry in a 125°F oven overnight; or follow directions with a dehydrator. It is dry enough when you can touch it with your fingers and it is not sticky. It should be flexible, not brittle. Cut into desired shapes, wrap in parchment paper and store in a tightly sealed container or freeze. Excellent snacks for lunches or travelling.
-adapted from www.allaboutapples.com
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour (or use buckwheat flour for gluten-free)
1/2 tsp powdered stevia
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp butter or ghee for dairy free
2-1/2 cups applesauce
2 tbsp honey (or use one of the above sweetened recipes)
1 cup warm water
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1/2 cup rice or almond milk, or a bit more if needed.
Mix together flour, stevia, baking powder and cut in the 1 tbsp of butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Bring applesauce, honey (if using), and water to a boil. Add lemon juice if desired. Add milk to flour mixture and stir until moist. Drop dough in six spoonfuls into the bubbling sauce. Cover tightly and cook over low heat 10 minutes. Great dessert alone, or with cream if diet allows dairy products, or soy cream or rice dream ice cream for dairy-free.
-adapted from Blueberry Slump in Eat Away Illness
References: Powerfoods, Stephanie Beling, MD; The Kitchen Gardener's Companion, Pat Katz; Foods that Heal, Bernard Jensen, MD; www.allaboutapples.com; www.bestapples.com; www.realage.com.
The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon
as a counsellor and nutritional consultant. Her book, Eat Away Illness, and cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, are available in health food stores or by calling Paulette at (306) 244-8890, emailing: email@example.com, or by visiting www.healingwithnutrition.ca.