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An apple a day keeps the doctor away; and hey, fall is in the air

Oo-oooh! Finally, the early mornings are cool and crisp – and I love it! Fall is finally in the air.

Fall signals the arrival of the bountiful apple crop. The aroma of fresh baked apples, the crunch of a juicy fresh apple and the variety of ways to cook apples make them a desirable fruit to keep on hand. Just thinking about it, apples may be the original fast food rolled up in its own nutritious container. (Remember Adam and Eve?) This delicious fruit is an affordable addition to any meal or snack. Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

If you keep an apple in plain sight — on your desk or in a clear bowl in the refrigerator — it’s more likely to be eaten, and that’s a good thing for your health. The following are great facts we are sharing today about apples.

Nutrition:

• A standard-size apple has only 80 calories since it is high in water content.

• The pectin naturally present in apples can moderate blood sugar levels.

• Apples contribute fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants and are low calorie.

• Preliminary studies indicate that apples are protective for heart health and may help inhibit cancer.

• Most of the phytonutrients and fiber are in the apple peel; if you discard it, you’ll lose about half the available beneficial fiber.

• If you’re budget conscious, a fresh apple is a great buy and loaded with nutrients when compared to commercially prepared and packaged snack foods.

Preparation and Food Safety:

• According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should wash raw fruits and vegetables very well before you peel, cut, eat or cook with them. Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after preparing food. Do not wash produce with soaps or detergents; this may leave residue on produce that is not safe to consume. Use clean cold water to wash items. After washing, dry with a clean paper towel. This can remove more bacteria. Don’t forget that homegrown, farmers market, and grocery store fruits and vegetables should all be well washed too.

• Fresh pressed apple cider and unpasteurized juices usually found in the refrigerated section of stores may potentially be contaminated with bacteria on the apple peel. To avoid the risk of foodborne illness buy juice and cider that notes on their label that they have been pasteurized.

• While apple juice and cider provide nutrients, if consumed in excess, juices can be a major contributor to extra pounds both for children and adults. Because eight ounces of juice or cider contain about 120 calories, enjoy juices in moderation. Naturally present sugars can make calories add up quickly. Limit fruit juices and eat whole fruit instead—you’ll also get the added fiber and other nutrients that are discarded in the juicing process.

Cooking with Apples

• Apples are the most versatile of all fruits.  They are suitable for a variety of cooking techniques and can be used in a variety of recipes.  Apples can be baked, grilled, poached, and even sautéed.  Add diced apples to salads or dried and added to granola cereal.  Sauté to accompany meat dishes and add to pancakes or waffle batter.  For desserts, pair apples with a variety of cheeses

Storage:

• Apples ripen faster at room temperature than in the refrigerator. Store apples in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to help retain moisture. They can last from four to six weeks.

Take advantage of locally grown apple varieties at farmers’ markets, road side stands and u-pick orchards. Whether you prefer sweet and juicy or tart and firm, this list may help you choose the best apple for your taste preferences and culinary uses. The most common varieties determined to be the best for eating fresh, baking and making applesauce include:

• Eating fresh: fuji, cameo, winesap, gala, honey crisp, jonagold, granny smith, golden delicious and red delicious

• Baking pies: jonagold, granny smith, Jonathan, Rome and golden delicious

• Making applesauce: Jonathan, gala, granny smith, Rome and golden delicious

• Making Caramel apples:  Debra Findley, one of the produce managers at Walmart, favorite apples to use are the fugi, and the gala because they are firm, crisp and make great treats.

Prevent cut fruit from turning brown.

• Keep cut fruits, such as apples, from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice. Or use a commercial antidarkening preparation with fruits, such as FruitFresh®, and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Another method to prevent browning is to mix them with acidic fruits like oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and other citrus fruit or pineapple. Prepare the acidic fruit(s) first. Then, cut the other fruits, mixing them with in the acidic fruit(s) as you prepare them.