The apple is one of nature's finest foods, from its vibrant fresh flavour to its countless health benefits and endless culinary uses in recipes.
Telling someone “you are the apple of my eye” is a compliment to cherish. It may be because the apple is one of nature’s finest foods—in all aspects— from its vibrant fresh flavour to its countless health benefits and endless culinary uses.
The apple is so beloved that every Canadian eats about 20 pounds of them each year. Now that’s something to feel good about!
Varieties and uses
Throughout the world there are well over 7,500 varieties of apples. A single wild apple tree yields a mind-boggling assortment of apples with varying tastes, textures, and shapes. One tree can produce apples of great sweetness, powerful puckery sourness, and even odd, vegetable-like flavours. Appearance can vary from giant red round orbs to plump yellow cherries and even tiny, dark olive look-alikes.
However, our taste for sweetness and satiety has led to the domestication of the apple into those familiar favourites we find in grocery stores today. When shopping keep in mind that certain apples are better for eating out of hand while others shine as culinary stars.
Choosing and storing
Use all your senses when selecting apples. Choose bright, richly coloured fruit that feels firm and tight. Avoid unsightly ones with bruises, holes, and soft spots. Give them a smell—you might discern subtle floral scents—but chances are if the apples are kept in a cooler, you may not smell anything.
To keep their signature crisp crunch, apples are best stored in a cool, humid place. The crisper drawer of your refrigerator or a cold cellar is ideal. When stored at room temperature, they lose moisture and turn soft. For best flavour and aromatic enjoyment, bring apples to room temperature before eating.
Healthy to the core
Apples have always had a history of good health. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” may have been the Prohibition era’s most brilliant PR slogan to sway people from the grip of drinking hard cider toward the health benefits of eating whole apples. Today there are countless studies and claims that maintain the apple does hold the keys to good health.
Apples contain a wealth of antioxidants
A 2004 study published in the New York Fruit Quarterly found that apples have the second highest level of antioxidant activity. That’s good news because antioxidants prevent cell and tissue damage caused by pesky free radicals, which helps lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Soluble fibres swell and form a gel-like mass that traps sugars and starches, slowly releasing them into the bloodstream. This slow digestion means blood sugar levels don’t spike and you stay fuller, longer. Soluble fibres also increase bulk in the intestinal tract making elimination easier and helping to lower cholesterol levels.
These are non-nutrient plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing compounds. Phytochemicals include catechins, quercetins, flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolics. These may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of diseases—including some cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, and asthma. They may also speed up the healing of recurring heartburn.
Vitamins and minerals
Raw apples with skin left on contain a good amount of vision-enhancing vitamin A as well as vitamin C—necessary for iron absorption, tissue repair, and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. They contain minimal amounts of B vitamins—most notable is folate, which encourages the proper development of red blood cells—and also some vitamin E, an immune system booster and a natural sunscreen. Apples also contain calcium and phosphorus, both of which help build strong bones and teeth.
Best for eating
Ambrosia, Braeburn, Empire, Fuji, Jonagold, Red Delicious, Gala, Honeycrisp
Why: Their clean, ?-crisp flavours are complex—a mix of sweetness veering towards refreshingly tart. The firm texture of the first bite offers a rich and creamy finish—pure goodness.
Best for pies
Northern Spy, Spartan, Granny Smith, Pippin
Why: These have a mix of sweet-tart and tangy flavours which make any of them (or a mix) a perfect pie choice once the sugar is added. Texture is soft when cooked, yet the apples still hold their shapes and aren’t mealy.
Best for applesauce
McIntosh, Northern Spy, Macoun, Crispin, and Cortland
Why: These are softer in texture than other apples and break down, but don’t collapse, releasing unrelenting juiciness that’s pleasantly sweet so you don’t have to add a lot of sugar.
Best for cooking and baking
Northern Spy, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, and Rome Beauty
Why: These maintain their shape without going mushy and fluff up like sweet, succulent pillows. Despite the heat, they still maintain their snowy-white flesh.
Best for salads
Cortland, Pink Lady, Red Delicious, Empire, and Gala
Why: Their sweetness plays well to a sharp, tart vinaigrette. Juicy and fragrant with a toothsome crunch, these are flavour boosters when mixed with mellow, leafy greens.
Buy organic whenever possible. Apples are one of the most sprayed crops. Since most of the nutrients are in the skin, be sure to always wash before eating.