A local apple a day, in season

Is apple pie in your immediate future?  Autumn is apple season, and if ever there was a fruit to eat in season from local sources, it’s the apple.  I was really happy to read that sales of the tasteless “Delicious” apple are half of 1995 levels.  Consumer revolt?

Nutritionally speaking apples have a major health halo, despite the fact that they’re lacking plenty of vitamins and minerals compared to other fruits like oranges or berries.  Almost no folate, potassium, vitamin C or other bioactive compounds found in darker colored produce.  What apples do have is fiber, specifically pectin, a soluble fiber that’s known for lowering cholesterol.  “An apple a day” would be a good recommendation for people with heart disease risk factors, as long as the apple tastes like an apple, not like mushy cardboard.

Here’s another non-nutritional benefit of apples: they can make your teeth-whitening last longer.  According dental experts, hard crunchy fruits, like apples, help scrub teeth and keep them clean and white longer.  That is, if your apple is actually crunchy, not a mushy cardboard texture.

Apples are also high in natural fructose, although “high” is a relative term if you’re comparing them to soda pop or candy.  A large 3-1/4 inch apples has almost 120 calories and 13 grams (52 calories) of fructose, less than one can of soda pop.  Plus of course, apples have lots of fiber and other nutrients.  But the naturally high fructose content makes apples a problem for people who can’t digest and absorb fructose.  People with this problem, who are on the FODMAPS diet should avoid apples and apple juice for this reason.

Unfortunately, the apples you find in grocery stores all year, even in season, are shipped from far-away orchards, and are bred to be big, pretty and pack well, not to taste wonderful.  And even apples that taste great one week can be awful the next.  There’s really no good way to guarantee that you’re buying apples that taste good, short of tasting them on the spot.  Shiny colors and firm texture are meaningless.  Local apples in unusual local varieties are a better bet for flavor, but they don’t last forever.  Eat them up, certainly within 2 weeks of purchase.  If they start to look a bit withered, you can cook them.  Here’s a really easy dessert-type way to use up older apples (as long as they have FLAVOR):

Peel some apples, maybe 1 per person, and slice them up.  Heat some olive oil in a saute pan, to moderate heat.  Add the apples and saute them until just tender.  Don’t overcook.  It won’t take long, depending on how hot the pan is.  The apples may brown a little.  Shake some cinnamon sugar over them, not too much (maybe 1 tsp/apple, or less if possible).  Serve plain, or with Greek-style yoghurt.  Another more sophisticated variation: instead of cinnamon sugar, sprinkle a pinch of dried thyme (or even chopped fresh thyme) over the apples towards the end of cooking, along with a touch of sugar or honey (1/2 tsp/apple).  Sprinkle with lemon juice if you like a tart flavor.

One thing you probably won’t be sprinkling over your apples is salt.  A recent report says, yet again, that Health Halo sea salt is no different, and no better than regular old table salt.  Well, it is different in one important way: it’s way more expensive.  So if you want to spend a lot of money on salt, go for it.  Using sea salt doesn’t make it OK to over salt your food.  It doesn’t make a high salt diet somehow healthy.  But then most people who eat high sodium diets are eating highly processed foods, not foods salted with a salt shaker.  Most highly processed foods aren’t made with sea salt, although food manufacturers are now trying to capitalize on that fake Health Halo by bragging about sea salt on the food label.  What’s that phrase about putting lipstick on a pig?  You can put sea salt on a chip, but it’s still just a salty chip.  Probably a more expensive chip.

Apples are certainly a healthier snack for kids than chips.  But please!  Don’t turn your kids off to apples by serving them tasteless cardboard apples.  If you don’t like the apple, they won’t either.  Don’t teach your kids that fruit is tasteless, with a weird cardboard-like texture.  Don’t feed them or yourself any fruit that isn’t flavorful.

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