Gardeners' World - - Apples -

Many older va­ri­eties of ap­ples are markedly health­ier than mod­ern su­per­mar­ket equiv­a­lents, the Cran­field Univer­sity-Kew study has re­vealed. While test­ing 66 ap­ple cul­ti­vars from the Na­tional Fruit Col­lec­tion at Brodg­dale, re­searchers dis­cov­ered that many of the her­itage Bri­tish va­ri­eties had far higher lev­els of nu­tri­ents than newer, cul­ti­vated ap­ples. The ap­ples on test in­cluded main­stream commercial va­ri­eties such as ‘Brae­burn’, ‘Golden De­li­cious’ and ‘Jazz’, as well as more an­cient ap­ples, in­clud­ing ‘De­cio’, which is be­lieved to date back to Ro­man times. The re­sults show that key health­pro­mot­ing phy­to­chem­i­cals have grad­u­ally been bred out from mod­ern cul­ti­vars with the fo­cus in­stead on pro­duc­ing sweet, crisp, good-look­ing ap­ples that store well. Older va­ri­eties con­tain con­sid­er­ably more phlo­ridzin than mod­ern fruits. This chem­i­cal helps to regulate blood sugar and can re­duce the risk of type 2 di­a­betes. Pro­fes­sor Leon Terry, who led the three-year project, told us: “There are good rea­sons why a lot of the older va­ri­eties have been phased out: many don’t store well and tend to suf­fer from dis­ease. But what’s ev­i­dent from our re­search is that many of the mod­ern va­ri­eties have lower lev­els of mi­cronu­tri­ents and tend to have a higher sugar con­tent. “I be­lieve that where we’ve got a di­verse ge­netic pool, we should be cel­e­brat­ing that, try­ing to iden­tify some of those qual­ity traits in older va­ri­eties and then per­haps in­tro­duc­ing them back into newer va­ri­eties. We also found that crab ap­ple va­ri­eties, and cider ap­ples in par­tic­u­lar, were very high in phlo­ridzin. So there may be scope to use some of the un­der­used her­itage cul­ti­vars to de­velop food prod­ucts with en­hanced health-pro­mot­ing prop­er­ties.” Dur­ing the re­search, the ap­ples were dis­sected and each part tested. “We found the ma­jor­ity of the health-giv­ing com­pounds are in the skin,” said Prof. Terry, ”so the worst thing you can do is peel an ap­ple. Eat the whole thing!”

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