I’ve blogged about apples before, but it’s time for an update since it’s apple harvest season.
Find local apples at pick-your-own operations, farmstands, farmers’ markets, and even supermarkets.
I love most any apple variety, but I’m especially looking forward to the McCouns (my favorite for eating fresh), and the Baldwin and Northern Spy varieties that come later in October (best for longer storage).
Apples’ Health Benefits
Does an apple a day keep the doctor away? Research keeps accumulating to suggest the old adage may go a long way towards delivering on its promise.
A study published in 2013 in the British Medical Journal comparing cardiovascular mortality rates between people taking the widely prescribed statin drugs and those eating an apple a day, concludes, “We find that [the] 150-year-old proverb is able to match modern medicine and is likely to have fewer side effects.”
Apples contain unique combinations of phytocompounds the tree produces to help combat environmental stresses such as diseases and ultraviolet radiation. When we eat apples, some of these anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds may help protect our own organs and tissues. Research has demonstrated an association between apple-eating and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases, including some cancers, diabetes, asthma and maybe more (scroll down).
But remember, the apple concentrates most of its phytocompounds in and close to the skin, so eat those peels. (If you feel the need to peel your apples before making sauce or pies, save the peels and try making apple-peel crisps).
For maximum health benefits, whole apples—skin included— are best. But some apple varieties and the apples that aren’t marketable because of cosmetic blemishes get pressed into cider. Almost everyone loves fresh apple cider served chilled and plain. Mulled apple cider is a fall- and winter-holiday tradition in many New England homes. Just heat fresh cider with a cinnamon stick or two and serve warm.
But did you know you can also use cider instead of water or other liquids for cooking oatmeal, simmering baked beans, and making bread dough?
And have you ever tasted boiled cider? As the name suggests, it’s simply apple cider “boiled down” (i.e., simmered for hours) until it reaches a thick syrupy, consistency. Mmm. Pure apple essence.
You can use boiled cider any way you’d use honey or maple syrup. It tastes great drizzled over pancakes or ice cream, added to pies and other baked goods, or used to glaze chicken or pork.
I’ve written about vinegar before, too. Besides working well for pickling, in salad dressings, and barbecue sauces, cider vinegar has many uses around the home.
It makes a great household cleaning agent (though it won’t disinfect quite as well as bleach). Fill a spray bottle with half vinegar/half water and spritz windows and other surfaces to get them squeaky clean. Caution: Don’t mix vinegar with other cleaning solutions, especially chlorine bleach. The combo could release deadly chlorine gas.
Cider vinegar makes a good disinfecting wash for greens and other vegetables, although you may want to give your produce a good brushing and/or a rinse too.
You may have heard that the acetic acid that gives vinegar its tang also makes vinegar a good herbicide, however, it’s most effective at strengths way beyond the four percent to five percent in the ordinary vinegar we use in salad dressings. For example, to achieve good control of perennial weeds, research shows you’ll need vinegar at 20 percent acetic acid—a product available through farm and garden outlets, but one that requires special cautions because its acid can cause severe burns and permanent eye injury.
You’ll find countless books and online testimonials touting apple cider vinegar as a miracle cure/preventive for everything from obesity to diabetes, cancer, and acne, but scientific evidence is either lacking or inconclusive for most of these uses.
I don’t use apple cider for medicinal purposes, but for years I’ve used it as as the second half of my two-ingredient shampoo. Cheap, with amazing results! Give it a try.