How about them apples!

They look to be a cross between a Granny Smith and a Fuji, but they are smaller and more tart than a Granny Smith, and very few get red enough to be confused with a Fuji. Perhaps they are a larger relative of crab apples which, by definition, only grow to two inches in diameter. Regardless, they are the best baking apples I have ever used, bar none.

It was the only tree on the property when I bought the place, and looked as tired and battered as the 120-year-old house. It had been burned and hacked at with some rugged implement. But then came spring and the little tree was soon arrayed in pale pink blossoms. Every year I would collect the apples and bake pies for friends and relations to rave reviews. When I tired of that, I fed the remainder to the horses corralled across the road.

This year the horses did not appear, but the apples sure did, a bumper crop. I baked and froze apples and mailed pastries to far off friends.  The birds got their fair share but I still had a couple of bushels left. In desperation I bought a food dehydrator. Yesterday I dried my first batch of apples. What a treat. At their peak, my raw (fresh) apples are sour and tough to chew. Drying turns them tart/sweet and chewy, infinitely more tasty than the store bought variety. Pre-treating with a honey and sugar bath to hinder oxidation no doubt aids the sweetness.

More importantly, drying preserves almost all their nutritional value which is, in itself, amazing.  Studies show eating apples:

  • Lowers bad cholesterol. Researchers at UC Davis reported that eating two apples or drinking 12 ounces of 100 percent apple juice daily demonstrated a significant slowing of the cholesterol oxidation process that leads to plaque build-up.
  • Aids digestion, improves bowel function and promotes weight loss. A medium apple contains about five grams of fiber, more than most cereal servings.
  • Reduces risk of a stroke, prostate cancer, type II diabetes, asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The National Cancer Institute has reported that foods containing flavonoids like those found in apples may reduce the risk of lung cancer by as much as 50 percent.
  • Apples are one of three foods (along with red wine and pears) that decrease the risk of mortality from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease among post-menopausal women, The findings were published in the March 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • Consuming apple juice may protect against cell damage that contributes to age-related memory loss including dementia and Alzheimer’s according to a study from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.  

Are you impressed? I am. And best of all, my apples are 100 percent organic. Dried apples can be stored for up to six months. I’m thinking about sending them as Christmas presents, if I don’t eat them all first. For now though, it’s back to slicing, coring and drying.

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