Like football season and fleece vests, freshly picked apples unmistakably signify fall. Durable and diverse, these barrel-aged workhorses can last for months in cold storage and days on a kitchen countertop. Whether you prefer yours coated in a candy shell or plucked straight from the tree, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 ways to delve deep into the core of apple truth:
1. As American as applis tartyrs: America claims apple pie as its signature dessert, but European variations on the theme pre-date us by several centuries. The earliest recorded recipe hails from 1382 England, and includes imported ingredients like saffron and figs.
2. Banner year: Farmers from Massachusetts to Minneapolis proclaim 2013 the year of the apple. John Weed, who heads up Hudson Valley’s misleadingly named Weed Farms fruit orchard, noted that this fall’s harvest will be one of the biggest New York has ever seen. “Since we didn’t get a spring frost this year, our apple trees yielded great returns,” he explained. Ladies and gentlemen, start your coring.
3. Destined for greatness: The earliest apple trees grew in what is now Kazakhstan some 30,000 years ago. Alexander the Great is credited with introducing dwarf apples to Europe in the 4th Century BC, and European colonists brought apple trees to the Americas in the 17th Century AD. There are now over 7,500 varieties of the stuff grown worldwide, and global apple production hovers around 75.6 million tonnes annually (1 tonne = 2,200 pounds).
4. What’s your type? While many bakers pledge allegiance to Granny Smith or Crispin, in reality, any hard, firm apple will do for dishes like apple turnovers and fried apple pie. Just steer clear of Red Delicious, which don’t have the texture or tartness to take the heat.
5. She blinded me with science: The newest star of the apple world is Honeycrisp. With its limited harvest (between mid-November and early December), sweet taste and signature snap, Honeycrisps inspire farmers market devotion usually reserved for things like ramps. Honeycrisps’ characteristic crunch is all due to one David Bedford, a University of Minnesota scientist who crossbred Macoun and Honeygold until he reached an unexpectedly delicious genetic variation.
6. Not a popularity contest: The United States grows 2,500 varieties of apples in 36 states. Despite these startling statistics, apples are not the most popular fruit in the country. That distinction belongs to bananas, a fellow supermarket staple.
7. To your health: Apples contain flavonoids that lower cholesterol and help clear and relax arteries, making them a decidedly heart-healthy food. Whether or not this will keep your doctor away remains to be seen.
8. A rose by any other name: Apples are fruits (obvs). But they also happen to be a member of the rose family of plants, Rosaceae, which includes pears, apricots and cherries.
9. Fertile fruit: In addition to the apple’s prominent positioning in the Abrahamic story of Adam and Eve, it plays a similarly starring role in Norse mythology. According to Norwegian lore, when King Rerir prays to Odin for a child, a goddess drops an apple into his lap. Once his wife eats said apple, she gets pregnant. For six years.
10. Fermentation nation: American apple cider is raw, unfiltered apple juice that is opaque and highly perishable. Europeans, in all their old world wisdom, further age the unpasteurized juice to create fermented, fruit-forward ciders that can have an alcohol content of up to 8.5% ABV.
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