An apple a day may not keep the
doctor completely away, but more and more scientific studies point to the
health benefits of eating apples. Some of the latest demonstrate that apples
show substantial benefits in preventing some cancers, notably colon and lung,
as well as heart disease.
If that doesn’t convince you to grab
an apple for a snack, then simply take a look at how beautiful they are this
time of year. Fresh, ripe and naked, without their dip in the wax bath that
packing houses use to keep them “fresh” in storage, apples in October are ripe
for the taking.
I’m not sure why — they seem so
commonplace? Old-fashioned? They’re tough on your gums if they aren’t healthy?
Too messy? — but a lot of people have given up eating apples out of hand.
But not so apple-holics, like those
participating in the UBC Apple Festival at the university’s Botanical Garden
each October. This free event attracts crowds, both for the apples you can buy
(they usually sell around 12,000 kilos) and the apple-insights you gain.
If you can’t find an apple you like,
keep trying. There’s more to life than a Red Delicious or McIntosh, and I don’t
mean your computer. The UBC festival alone sold 60 varieties; 200 different
kinds of one-year-old apple trees were also available.
For some, the unique taste of an
apple is so loaded with memories and goodness that they go to all kinds of
lengths to graft and preserve a special tree. It may be one that grew in the
yard next door when they were kids, or a neighbourhood favourite slated for the
If you’ve given up because every time
you buy an apple it’s mealy or tasteless, try again. Look for fresh, unwaxed
apples, especially those from local growers in Pemberton, Lillooet and the
Okanagan. You’ll have way more luck if you go organic.
If you’re lucky you’ll be able to
find some unusual varieties at Whistler, thanks to the efforts of former
resident, Anthony Evans. Anthony, who now lives in Osoyoos with his wife,
Diana, brings fresh, locally-grown apples, pears and other produce from the
Okanagan to local restaurants and stores.
Some of the varieties he supplies you
may not otherwise find so easily: Ambrosia (a chance seedling, like the Granny
Smith in Australia, that was discovered growing in an orchard in Cawston in the
Similkameen Valley), Snow, Winter Banana, the Aurora Golden Gala (bred right in
Summerland) and even the Cox Orange Pippin, a distinctive small, fragrant yellow-fleshed
apple, which dates back to the 1830s and is a favourite of anyone from England.
If you start getting into apples,
you’ll find they’re something you can appreciate, like wine or cheeses: You
learn to discern their many different tastes and qualities and look forward to
finding your favourites. Anthony and Diana’s is the Pink Lady — pretty to
behold and known for its fragrant sweetness, and the fact that the white flesh
doesn’t oxidize and turn brown, making it ideal for dishes where presentation
Pick at the peak
If you’ve discovered a favourite tree
in a farmer’s field or you’re heading off to the Okanagan to pick your own
apples, here’s the scoop.
First of all, timing is everything.
When healthy, unblemished fruits start to drop to the ground, you’re right on
time. Another clue: check the “under colour” or “ground colour” of the apple.
In yellow or gold varieties, the under colour is the same as the peel. But in
red apples, you can see it around the core or stem cavities, and it changes
from green to yellow or greenish-yellow as apples mature. So watch for the
colour change to make sure you're picking apples that are ready to use.
As well, ripe apples should be easy
to pick with stems attached. You should be able to roll or twist the apple so
its stem separates from the tree, not from the fruit. Whether you’re picking
apples from the tree or the counter in the fresh produce department, you want
ones that still have the stem attached — missing stems leave a tiny
opening into the core that could spell trouble.
Handle fruits carefully after picking
to avoid bruising. If you’re traveling a fair distance, try not to stack them
more than three or four deep in a box. You might want to use crumpled
newspapers to cushion a layer or two.
Once home, store them in a dry cool
place to enjoy their snappy goodness the longest possible time.
Shriveled little people
If all else fails, you may appreciate
an entirely different way of appreciating apples.
I was snooping around a friend’s
house the other day and in the china cabinet along with other family treasures
sat a tiny doll with a brown, shriveled, scary-looking little face. It was
something I hadn’t seen in years — an apple head — and it reminded
me how fun and creepy they are.
I’m not sure there’s enough time
before Halloween to create some of these mysterious little things with your
kids, but there sure are enough apples around and if you start now, you’ll have
plenty for next year.
Making apple heads is a cinch. Simply
peel one apple for each head you want — any variety will do. Then carve a
face into one side. Make fairly wide openings for the mouth and eyes, and don’t
forget a good-sized nose sticking out.
Once you’re satisfied with the faces,
place the apple heads in a warm — and here’s the key on the wet coast
— dry place. You don’t want mould to grow on them.
As they shrivel you can shape the
features with your fingers or small tools. As the eye cavities start to dry and
close, place one tiny black seed bead in each eye hole and the apple will shrivel
around them to hold them in place for eyes.
You may have to experiment a bit
until you learn how deep to carve the facial features to get the effects you
It can take weeks until your apple
heads have dried enough, but once they do, you can glue hair on top —
real human hair always looks best — to hide the spot where the stem was.
Add bits of cloth and other details, or even a whole body, to cover the blossom
end and make your apple heads come alive.
If you want to get gruesome at
Halloween, or any time, string thread or a piece of fishing line up through the
centre and hang them like tiny shrunken heads. They’re sure to keep all
marauders at bay.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning
freelance writer who just tossed her core into the garbage can.