Although you can get apples year-round at the supermarket, the quality and variety of apples is best in autumn, especially when they are fresh from the farm or farmers market. Apples are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, are high in fiber, and have no fat, cholesterol, or sodium.
One of the most enjoyable things about autumn is going to pick-your-own apples. And, no matter where you live, there are plenty of farms and ranches to pick-your-own apples; to find one near you, check out www.pickyourown.org.
There are also plenty of apple festivals going on across the United States and Canada, click here to find one near you.
There are many apple varieties available from September through October, and in warmer climates, like California, even through December. With all the many choices, you want to pick the type of apple that best suits your need. What do you want to use the apple for: fresh eating, baking that perfect apple pie, making apple cider, cooking or storing?
Early varieties include the classic Red Delicious, which are striped to solid and red, and have a sweet taste; and the Jonagold, a cross between a Jonathan and a Golden Delicious, and are bright red and can be sweet or slightly tart.
Later varieties include Rome, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Jonathan. Romes are a deep red and are slightly sweet. Fuji’s range in color from gold to red and often have red striping, and are great for snacking. Granny Smith apples are green, tart apples that are perfect for baking. Jonathans have light red stripes over deep red or yellow and are slightly tart.
Whether you pick-your-own or buy them at the farmers’ market, choose apples that are free of bruises because bruised apples will decay quickly. Select apples that are firm to the touch and have good color.
Store apples in a cool, dark place. They do well placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. Store them away from foods that have strong odors because they absorb odors easily.
Some quick and easy serving tips:
- For cooking and baking, use apples that will remain flavorful and firm, such as Granny Smith.
- For a fat-free substitute for oil, use applesauce when baking cakes, muffins and other moist, cake-like items. Substitute the same amount of applesauce for the oil.
- Add apple juice instead of broth to your favorite stuffing recipe.
- For a quick and easy simmered fall punch, combine 2 cups apple juice, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 2 or 3 cloves. Simmer on the stove for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove cloves before serving.
Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.