By Diann Douglas
Although apples are available year round, fall is the time of year that apples are ripe for picking. Many varieties ripen in late summer, but since October is in the middle of the picking season, it is designated as national apple month, so thought I would share some facts about apples. Apples are among the most popular fruit eaten by Americans, it ranks up there beside banana as the most often eaten fruit. A survey conducted in recent years by the U.S. Apple Association revealed consumer eat on average 16.4 pounds of fresh apples and 33 pounds of processed apple each year. Apple products include apple juice, cider, dried, frozen, canned, baby food, apple jelly and vinegar.
Apples have existed for centuries; it is believed they originated in the mountainous area between the Black and Caspian Seas. It is thought the people of this region migrated to Europe, Persia and India, taking apples along with them. Ancient history showed Greeks grew apples in the 3rd century B.C. Apple growing was also popular during the fifteenth century of the Italian Renaissance. France and England became dominate apple growing countries in Europe well into the 1800s.
Exports of fresh apples are estimated to be 40 million bushels each year. This accounts for 27% of the total crop grown in the U.S. and it has risen over the past decade due to an increase of disposable income in other countries. Leading markets for U.S. apples are Mexico, Canada, Indonesia, Hong Kong, England and India.
Believe it or not, according to the U.S. Apple Association, apples are grown in every state in the United States. Top producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. A weekend drive north will get you into the apple county of Georgia and North Carolina, there you will find many varieties. Two varieties that can be grown in north Florida are Anna and Dorsett Gold. If you would like to try your hand at growing apples, we have a UF Extension publication tailored to apples varieties in Florida.
Can you guess how many varieties of apples are grown in the United States? A few you say, well guess again – there are 2,500 varieties with the top 10 being the familiar ones you see in the store: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, Rome, McIntosh, York, Idared and Jonathan.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away because apples are very nutritious. A medium apple is only 80 calories, it is fat free, an excellent source of soluble fiber which helps reduce cholesterol. Apples are a convenient snack food that can be carried along and eaten at any time. Don’t overlook using apples in your favorite recipes or find new ones to add interest to your meals. They add flavor to salads, can be cooked with vegetables for interesting side dishes and make great desserts.
Florida heat isn’t the best condition for apple storage, they prefer cool conditions. Apples can be stored at room temperature if you plan to eat them within a week. For longer storage, the fruit and vegetable bin in your refrigerator is the best place.
For more information on fruit and nutrition, contact the Madison County Extension Service.
The University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer author- ized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.