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Mellow apples signal fall and great eating
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Let's face it, ever since Eve said, "Hey, Adam, want a treat?" apples have been favorites around the globe.
Tart or sweet, crunchy and dripping with juice, eaten raw, or mellow and sweet baked into a tart, everyone it seems loves apples.
There are 7,500 varieties grown worldwide. About 100 varieties are grown commercially in the United States. We consume 45.5 pounds of apples per person per year, according to the University of Michigan. Europeans are even greater apple lovers, consuming 46 pounds of apples annually.
While 61 percent of apples in the United States are eaten as fresh fruit, there are multiple varieties available fit for the dozens of ways apples can be cooked. While there are spring varieties of apples, a sure sign of fall is that apples begin to show up in stores and the mellow, heart-warming aroma of apples baking begins to waft through kitchens across the country.
It may seem obvious, but it's best to try to buy the apples grown closest to you when they are at their peak. Apples grow in all 50 states in the United States. As with fresh produce, the fresher the better.
Apple growers learned a few years ago that if apples were stored in nitrogen, they would hold for as long as nine months. When they come out of storage, they are usually very crisp, but that will only last about a week to ten days. So, for the freshest tasting apples, buy them as soon as the grocer puts them out.
As people try apples, they tend to develop favorites for different uses. For example, Fuji's are sweet, juicy and firm -- just great for eating. But those who like a more tart apple may prefer Granny Smith with its sweet-tart taste.
Recipes and charts which describe apple varieties and their best uses abound on the web, supplied by growers and state departments of agriculture.
Bake your apple
When it comes to baking, the dish you have in mind may help you decide which variety to use. A McIntosh, for example, will bake up with excellent flavor but will split and may come apart when apples are baked whole. Courtlands will do the same, but Cox's Orange pippin, a sweet-tart apple, will hold its shape, as will an Empire.
As for the uses, just name it. In Italy, cooks prepare a simple and wonderfully flavorful dessert - Mele al forno -- by simply coring applies, placing them in a baking dish, and adding enough water to come up half way on the apples. Where the core was removed, add 1 pat of butter to each apple and sprinkle over a teaspoon of sugar. The apples bake for about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven until tender.
A more elaborate dish is to stuff baking apples with dried fruit and bake them in a sauce of water, sugar, cinnamon and Marsala wine in a slow oven until they begin to collapse. They are napped with the mahogany-colored wine sauce and served dusted with powdered sugar.
But apples are for more than just dessert. A favorite Brazilian way to use apples is to chop crunchy varities and add them to salads - from tossed salads to potato salads.
In Normandy, apples are braised with chicken or baked with duck.
One of the natural soul-mates for apples is pork. Recipes range from apples stuffed with Italian sausage, to a pork tenderloin roasted with apples.
One of the best reasons to enjoy apples, regardless of the way you eat them, is that they are so good for you. An average apple has about 80 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of fiber.
Scientists have known for a long time that apples contain flavonoids which act as antioxidants. Some of the latest research done at the University of California at Davis shows that apples are good for fighting the risk of cancer. So, yes, an apple a day will keep the doctor away, unless you invite him over for a slice of apple pie.
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