How do you like them apples?
New varieties breathing life into world’s oldest fruit
We think of apples as a simple fruit, but their roots run deep into our past. For more than 3,000 years, civilizations around the world have grown and valued apples. They’ve worked their way into our language and our imaginations.
Do you like things in apple-pie order or are you more likely to tip over the apple cart? Does a bright red apple conjure up thoughts of seduction or a sentimental gift for a favourite teacher?
With new varieties breathing life into the world’s oldest fruit, apples are as relevant today as they were three millennia ago.
In autumn, head to the local farmers’ market to discover small-yield apples. Act quickly and you might be lucky enough to take home some lemon-kissed Ginger Gold or floral Macouns.
At the grocery store you’ll find up to 16 varieties of Ontario apples. Look for Ambrosia, Cortland, Crispin (a.k.a. Mutsu), Empire, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, Idared, Jonagold, McIntosh, Northern Spy, Red Delicious, Red Prince, Russet and Spartan.
Did I forget to mention Granny Smith? No. They’re only available as imports since they require a longer, warmer growing season than Ontario provides. If you want a local substitute, the Crispin is Ontario’s true green apple, but won’t imitate a Granny Smith’s flavour. If you’re looking for a firm apple with a bright tart taste, opt for a Russet.
Comparing apples to apples
There’s no such thing as a typical apple. Flavours range from sweet to tart. Subtle apple undertones are described as citrusy, floral and even spicy. Toss in textures ranging from bend-your-braces firm to don’t-squeeze-too-hard tender, and the simple apple becomes quite complex. Given their diversity, no one apple does it all.
So, what apple should you choose? That depends on how you’re going to eat it. This handy chart will help you determine which apple is best for your next meal or snack.
Regardless of variety, look for firm, smooth-skinned apples. Avoid apples with wrinkled skin or bruises. You can often buy bags of less-than-perfect apples sometimes labelled “Naturally Imperfect.” They have the same taste and nutrition as their flawless counterparts, but might be smaller or unevenly shaped. They cost less, so are a good option if you’re cooking or baking.
Apples like cold and humid conditions. For best results, store your apples in perforated plastic bags in your refrigerator crisper. Some people put a glass of water beside them or mist them with water as an extra measure. Just don’t wash them (yet), or leave them on the counter for more than a few days.
As your apple stash diminishes, keep an eye out for bruises and soft spots. Overripe or bruised apples emit ethylene gas which speeds up ripening. Any apples (or other fruits and vegetables) nearby will ripen too quickly and spoil.
If you find an apple with a soft spot, trim it out. The rest of the apple is perfectly good, so eat it, sliver it into salads, or fire up the oven.
If you aren’t going to use it right away, sprinkle the exposed fruit with lemon juice to prevent browning.
Apples arrive at the store washed and polished with an edible “wax.” Steve Martin of Martin’s Family Fruit Farm in Waterloo says this protective coating is misunderstood.
“The industry term is ‘wax’ but the consumer thinks ‘floors’ or ‘turtles’,” he says. The wax has been around in some form or other for about 100 years, and remains a necessary part of apple processing.
Since all apples must be washed to remove bacteria, the wax ensures your apples stay fresh and beautiful until you’re ready to eat them.
To wash an apple, just use clean, running water, and the friction of your hand. No need for special detergents.