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Enjoy more apples this season

Prairie Fare: Apples are more than just tasty snacks, they’re good for your health

Apples are healthy foods and are at their best when you eat the whole fruit fresh.

We didn’t get any apples on our apple tree this year,” my 19-year-old daughter lamented. “Not even one.”

My neighbours cut down their aging apple tree last year, so that probably had something to do with our fruitless tree.

According to NDSU Extension information written by our horticulture specialists, “many tree fruit cultivars cannot set fruit with their own pollen, so you must select and plant two different cultivars to ensure fertilization.”

A “cultivar,” by the way, is a plant variety produced through selective breeding. So another cultivar (crabapple) would help our tree produce fruit. More than likely, we have enough apple trees in our neighbourhood.

I talked with Extension horticulturist Todd Weinmann from Cass County. He reminded me that this past spring, we had a late frost, which destroyed many of the flowers on apple trees in our community.

I will hope for warmer weather next spring because we enjoy apples from our tree.

Our tree has provided a key recipe ingredient, along with many pleasant memories, including this one from several years ago.

“That apple tree is amazing,” my then-12-year-old daughter exclaimed as she held up a large, bright-red apple. “Look at this apple!” She had just come inside after using our apple picker to pluck some of the brightest-red fruits high in the tree in our backyard.

“We can make lots of things with apples, can’t we?” I responded. I noted the bags of apples waiting to be consumed or given away.

Our family was making use of all sorts of devices to pick and process our apples. My daughter was turning the handle of our apple peeler-corer-slicer device, and ribbons of apple peelings were falling into the sink. I was making apple crisp with my then-seven-year-old daughter, using my older daughter’s peeled apples.

Later, I overheard my husband comment to my daughter, “Do you smell the apples cooking? You’ll remember this aroma all your life.”

Besides providing tasty snacks and recipe ingredients, apples are good for your health. Whether an “apple a day keeps the doctor away” depends on lots of things: your genetics as well as your nutrition choices, physical activity level and other factors.

Apples have been found to help with weight maintenance or loss as well as blood glucose management. Eating more apples may reduce the risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. Other researchers have explored the relationship between apple consumption and asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with several vitamins and minerals, apples provide pectin, a soluble fibre that may help reduce or maintain blood cholesterol levels. Apples also provide health-promoting antioxidant compounds, especially in the peel.

When apples are processed into juice, many of the health-promoting phytochemicals decrease; therefore, nutritionists advise eating more whole fruit than juice.

Eating a fresh apple with the peel intact will give you the maximum health benefit. On average, one apple has five grams of fibre. The skin provides the majority of the fibre content. A medium apple contains about 80 calories and is fat, sodium and cholesterol free. Apples also provide vitamins C and A.

When choosing an apple to use, look for fruits with shiny, smooth skin and the characteristic colour of the variety. Avoid selecting punctured apples, and treat fruit gently to avoid bruising them.

For the longest storage, keep apples in a plastic bag in a refrigerator away from strong-smelling foods because they may absorb the flavours of other foods. Apples give off ethylene gas, which may cause browning of other produce; the plastic bag helps prevent this issue.

Apples are high in water content, so they may shrivel if they are kept in low-humidity areas. Remove any decayed apples from the storage container because the decayed fruit may speed the decay of other apples.

Do you have a lot of apples in need of recipes? See From Orchard to Table: Apples! which horticulture specialist Esther McGinnis and I wrote. This 2017 publication lists a wide variety of cultivars that grow well in our region, along with the harvest season, flavour, culinary use and storage life. We also provide 14 recipes ranging from Apple Relish to Apple Smiles (which will make you smile).

To access the handout and much other information, visit the NDSU website.

Try making freezer applesauce to enjoy this winter. You will control how sweet or tart you prefer your applesauce.

Make-your-own freezer applesauce

  • Choose apples that are free of bruises and decay.
  • Wash, peel, core and quarter apples. Cook apples on medium heat for 10 to 20 minutes until tender.
  • Add 1/2 cup water.
  • Stir often to prevent burning. Mash the pulp into sauce.
  • Add 1/8 cup sugar per quart of sauce (optional).
  • Leave out the spices. Spices lose their flavour with freezing. Add spices to the sauce after you thaw it.
  • Cool the sauce in a shallow pan in the refrigerator.
  • Pack the sauce in rigid freezer containers, leaving 1 inch of head space.
  • Freeze at 0 F and use within 12 months.
Homemade applesauce is a great way to 
enjoy apples. photo: NDSU

About the author


Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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