Latin name: Malus domestica
Uses: fruit, beverage, alcohol
Apples are one of the most diverse domesticated plants we eat, represented by an astounding 7,500 or so known cultivars. These rose-family fruits are firmly planted in the ancient folk world, featuring in Greek mythology, Germanic paganism, and the Christian story of how humans lost their innocence.
Why is apple healthy?
The rightly beloved apple is an excellent source of fiber, particularly pectin, a soluble fiber that can bind cholesterol and slow glucose absorption. Apples are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which combine with their anti-inflammatory properties to make them the perfect portable snack. According to studies, apples have been found to protect against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Eating them regularly can keep you regular — they seem to dramatically improve digestive health. They may really keep the doctor away!
What does apple taste like?
No matter what you look for in an apple, there’s a variety for you: each one was selected and bred for its own specific balancing act of sweetness, crispness, fragrance, and juiciness, plus the tartness of malic acid (named for apples). Some varieties have a honey-like aroma and sweetness, whereas others have an undertone of roasted coffee or almond oil. Granny Smith is the quintessential grassy-green tart apple flavor used for hard candies and apple pie, and Golden Delicious has a citrus-rose flavor. The juicy tang of a Jazz is nearly effervescent, and Ashmead’s Kernel, an English heirloom, tastes like a pear-scented Yankee Candle unless you let it mellow in storage for a spell.
Where does apple grow?
Wild apples originated in Central Asia (near Kazakhstan) and have been cultivated globally for millennia. Early American colonists brought English apples to their new home not for eating, but for pressing and fermenting into hard cider. Today, China produces about half the world’s apples.
How do I prepare apple and what do I pair it with?
Raw apples are great dipped in everything from caramel to fondue. In pies and hot cereals, cooked apples love warm spices and brown sugar. But they’re often used to balance savory foods like sage-flecked sausage, pork loin, and onions, too. Apples are a perfect foil for sharp cheese. Broil a slice of aged white cheddar or blue cheese onto your next apple pie turnover, or slip slivers of apples into your next grilled cheese sandwich. Apples provide crunch, sweetness, and acidity to Waldorf and chicken salads.
Apples don’t come true from seed; that is, if you plant all of the seeds from a single apple, each seed will grow into a tree producing different types of apples that may or may not bear any resemblance to the apple whence it came. This is why apple trees are grown from scions (grafts) instead of seed — a guarantee that the fruit will be a clone of its parent.