Auckland Central, Auckland
Everybody loves a fresh, crispy apple. Whether it’s a quick snack or the basis of a delicious baked treat, apples are one of the most easily available and popular types of fruit out there.
There are more than 7000 known cultivars or subspecies of apples, with different cultivars developed for different climates and purposes. Many have been developed for eating, others for cider, others for cooking, and still others for disease resistance, yield, ease of shipping, and flavour. Most apples we buy in the supermarket are developed to give the best commercial return, but some older, more unusual varieties can sometimes be found through independent growers.
The Red Delicious is a beautiful-looking apple, with its vivid colour and round, conical shape, but compared to many other varieties has very little depth of flavour. The juicy flesh is sweet and mild, with a good crunch, making it pleasantly refreshing to eat straight out of the fridge.
Apples will give you some vitamin C, but their real value is in their fibre content. Fibre plays a very important role in bowel health, reducing the risk of colon cancer, and it also helps lower cholesterol by preventing re-absorption. Apples are a good source of antioxidants, which may help prevent other types of cancer as well.
Choose firm apples with good colouring. Avoid apples with bruising or weeping patches – they’ll destroy your fruit bowl, and a bruised apple will give off more ethylene gas, ripening the rest of your fruit too quickly. They’ll keep for quite a while in the fridge, but are best fresh.
The apple tree may well have been the first fruit tree to be cultivated. Originating in or around Turkey, over the centuries thousands of varieties have been developed through cross-pollination.
Apples have long played a role in the culture of human civilisations: they’re associated with the Forbidden Fruit in the Bible story of Adam and Eve, although the fruit itself is never actually mentioned; in Ancient Greece it was considered to be sacred to the goddess Aphrodite; and in Norse mythology they’re connected to fertility and everlasting youth.
The Red Delicious is an American apple that originated in the late 19th century. Its strong shelf appeal has made it the most popular type of apple in North America, but its lack of flavour means that it’s less popular in other countries, and even in its homeland its popularity is waning. It’s been suggested that in the process of breeding the apple chiefly for its rich colour, the flavour has been bred out. Red Delicious is often used in breeding programmes.
Red Delicious apples are cultivated as an eating apple, so are best eaten fresh or juiced. They’re a great addition to salads, with balsamic vinegar and perhaps a cheese like feta to cut through the sweetness.
At the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, apples are eaten with honey for a sweet new year.
Apples are high in pectin, and a lot of jam sold commercially is gelled using pectin from apples.
Like blackberries and raspberries, apples are a member of the rose (Rosaceae) family.
Ever bobbed for apples at Halloween? The tradition comes from a Pagan new year ritual, in which the first to catch an apple in their teeth was said to be the next to marry.
If you cut an apple in half crosswise, the core makes the shape of a five-pointed star.