“An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”
LOOK at those lovely red apples. Do they not look tempting? They certainly do—and no doubt for good reason. Apples were designed to contribute to your well-being and good health. Among the many kinds of fruit beneficial for food, the apple is one of the foremost. Thus, they tempt you into being good to yourself.
The apple tree belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae), as do the pear, the quince, the whitethorn, and the service tree. The sap of all these trees is rich in sugar. Their very fragrant fruits come in various shades of green, yellow, and red, with flavors ranging from tart to sweet.
Worldwide about two billion bushels of apples are produced each year—between 17 and 18 million tons. In the United States, about half are eaten fresh. The rest go into such items as apple butter, apple juice, applesauce, apple jelly, apple brandy, apple cider, apple pies and other pastries, apple vinegar, and apple wine. In Europe a larger fraction of the crop goes into cider, wine, and brandy. Of the total world production, about one fourth goes into cider.
But long before the fruit becomes pleasant to our palate, the apple tree in full bloom is a delight to our eyes. It is decked with rosy-edged white blossoms in such profusion that if all of them developed into apples, the tree would be incapable of supporting the weight. An early summer storm will usually see to it that some of the blossoms are carried away.
The apple tree grows best in Temperate Zones. And it has been cultivated since time immemorial. Apple trees and apples are mentioned six times in the Bible.* The Romans enjoyed them, and in their numerous military conquests, they spread various kinds of apples throughout England and other parts of Europe. The early American colonists brought apple seeds and apple trees with them from England.
By much experimenting, generations of cultivators have improved the quality of apples through breeding. This, however, is not a speedy process. Producing a marketable new brand of apple may take as long as 20 years. But today, thanks to the perseverance of cultivators, we have a great variety of juicy and colorful apples from which to choose.
The apple season starts in July or August in the Northern Hemisphere. But the first varieties to ripen, such as the James Grieve or the Transparent, cannot be stored for long. They should be eaten soon, either raw or stewed. However, they sharpen our appetite for what is to follow: Summerred, Gravenstein, Cox’s Orange, Jonathan, Boskop, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Granny Smith—to name just a few of the thousands of varieties.
Apples should be harvested in dry weather. They should be picked carefully so that the new shoots and their leaves are not damaged. When apples are really ripe, turning the fruit slightly will easily break it loose from the branch. It is important to watch that the stalk is not broken off the apple, as this would cause a lesion, impairing the life of the fruit.
Late varieties should be left on the tree as long as possible—weather permitting. If because of an early frost the apples freeze on the tree, picking should be postponed until they have thawed. Apples can stand temperatures a few degrees below the freezing point, depending on their level of ripeness and their sugar content, but once frozen and thawed, they cannot be stored. They should soon be processed into juice, stewed fruit, or vinegar; they cannot be dried.
An interesting feature of apples is that they breathe. They absorb oxygen from the air and exhale carbon dioxide as well as water. Therefore, the warmer the environment, the sooner they dehydrate and shrivel. Through breathing they also absorb odors from their environment. Therefore, it is best to store them by themselves at a temperature of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit [5°C].
Storing apples in a cellar together with potatoes will cause the apples to lose some of their fresh flavor. Moreover, the different varieties should be kept separate. And it is best if apples are individually wrapped in paper. This slows down dehydration and reduces the danger of contamination by rotting neighbors.
It has been said that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” While that is not always the case, the apple does have this favorable reputation. Why? Because of the things it contains that can affect one’s health for the good.
Each single apple is a small storehouse of important nutrients. When ripe, it contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and E. It also offers a variety of sugars, such as dextrose, fructose, and sucrose. The combination of acids in it is responsible for the flavor. In addition, it contains a number of mineral substances, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and others, as well as pectin and fiber. About 85 percent of the apple is water.
Another substance found in apples is ethylene, which functions especially as a natural growth regulator that promotes the ripening of the fruit. This gaseous substance can be put to good use if you have green tomatoes or hard avocados. Put them in a paper bag with a few ripe apples, and they will ripen more quickly.
Since apples have health value, it is important to know when and how to eat them. First of all, they should be ripe. And it is better not to eat cold apples; let them sit at room temperature for a while. It is also important to chew them well.
Interestingly, apples have properties that are said to be beneficial for cleansing the digestive system. These same properties aid in curing both constipation and diarrhea.
A Word of Caution
Apples, as well as other fruits, are susceptible to mold. Because of this, a measure of caution is appropriate. Resulting toxins can cause discomfort and nausea. Therefore, watch out for mold, and cut out not just the moldy portion but a section around the spoiled area as well, for the toxin tends to spread out.
Nevertheless, apples contribute to your good health. So if you want to “keep the doctor away,” then try eating an apple each day!
[Pictures on page 24
The apple tree in full bloom delights the eyes