Bon Appletit!

Monday, December 5, 2011

High in fiber, potassium and micro-nutrients, tasty, and conveniently palm-sized, apples really are the perfect snack.

As we leave the crisp days of fall and the final leaves drop from the trees, we also exit the Maryland produce growing and harvesting season. Perhaps you had a chance to spend a day at one of our local farms, picking your own apples with the family, or at least have taken advantage of your local farm stand and enjoyed fresh produce throughout the summer and fall. If you haven’t had your fill of apples, apple cider, apple butter, apple pie and the like, don’t despair! As we round out the apple harvesting season, you may still be able to find late varieties of Maryland apples, like Fujis, at the orchard, a roadside stand, or in the supermarket. If you’re shopping at your local food store, be sure to support Maryland agriculture by looking for produce bearing the “Maryland’s Best” logo.

There are 44 varieties of apples grown in the Unites States, and 13 of those are grown right here in Maryland: Empire, Fuji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Mutsu (Crispin), Red Delicious, Rome, Stayman, and York. In addition to being late bloomers, Fujis also store very well. Keep them in your garage or basement for best results.  Native to Japan, Fujis are relatively new to the United States. They are known for their unusually sweet taste, and, as a result, are one of the best choices for making apple sauce.

Other popular varieties like Gala and Golden Delicious should be refrigerated and even then may only last a few weeks.  If you’re holding onto some of these from the fall, be sure to use them soon before they spoil. Need inspiration? Check out Maryland Apple Promotion Board’s recipe collection for ideas on everything from mulled cider to apple upside-down gingerbread.  I particularly like their idea for “Lunch Box Surprises” — slice off the top of an apple. Core apple, leaving bottom of apple intact. Fill with a mixture of cream cheese or peanut butter combined with raisins and nuts. Replace top of apple and pack in plastic sandwich bag for a lunch surprise. They also suggest freezing an apple juice box and including it in your child’s lunch. It’ll keep the rest of the food cool and should thaw by lunchtime!