Imagine a wall of candy the length of three cars and as tall as the arms can reach, in a sprawling suburban drug-store. You’re 4 feet tall and 8 years old, and you’re told you can choose any candy you want, but just one.
This is torture. And it’s the scene I would find myself in after a visit to the doctor. It was not meant to be painful, it was meant as a treat by my mother to relieve any pain I’d just withstood. But the anxiety-inducing, paralyzing dilemma that I would experience would always come down to this: do I go with the red Twizzlers that I know I love or try Almond Joy or Oh Henry and risk wishing I’d stuck with Twizzlers.
This is how I feel when buying apples.
There used to be three (Mac, GrannySmith and Delicious), and now there are thirty (actually there are over seven thousand). Apples have come up from the cellar and into the light. At my local market, one vendor had set up a table and stuck a toothpick into the sides of fifteen apples (one representative from each variety) with the name on the little toothpick flag and sample slices at the apple’s feet. The apples stood proudly on their apple stage, like beauty pageant contestants with sashes across their chests, asserting their heritage, declaring their talents, inviting judgment.
But unlike the wall-of-candy, at the apple stand there are no limits. So I buy two each, of six different kinds (that’s twelve) – actually I buy three of the HoneyCrisp since HoneyCrisp are my Twizzler of the apple world. But when I get home, they’re all mixed up and my only concern now is putting them to use. So the apples start to go where they’ve never gone before – like into my eggs.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but there is something incredibly exciting about introducing two unlikely ingredients and having the connection just work. The unexpected creation was an Apple Sage Zucchini Omelet. Divine.(Don’t judge it til you see it!) Photos and recipe.
So this is fascinating about apples — not until the 1900’s did apples in the US, become celebrated as a health food. When Johnny Appleseed was spreading seeds in the early 1800’s the apples were for alcoholic cider*. Frontiersman later learned how to graft and grow eating apples, but apples were still largely used for alcohol and then prohibition hit and the future of apples was at risk. So a savvy marketer, riffing on an old English proverb**, came up with the much improved, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and apples were forevermore – a health food.
Apples have a lot going for them but they are actually very low in Vitamin C (not even in the top 10 foods list), though they are high in antioxidants, fibre and phytochemicals. (Read this only if you want a dizzyingly comprehensive argument for their goodness.)
Unfortunately though, they are one of the most pesticide intensive crops and much of the pesticide stays in the skin – a primary source of nutrients and flavor. So buy organic if you can, and wash the skin with soap if you buy conventional. But don’t peel it! 2/3 of the fiber is in the peel. If you’re buying conventional apple juice, look for the words “US grown apples” since China is the world’s largest producer and their pesticide standards are questionable.
So get cooking! And share with us your favorite ways to use a dozen apples.
* From Botany of Desire, one of Michael Pollan’s earliest books and still my favorite.
** “To eat an apple before going to bed will make the doctor beg his bread.”
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