Apples ­— the secretly disguised superheroes

The Golightly Gourmet

Dana Zia

I recently scored a huge box of beautiful organic apples picked from a local tree. When I opened the box and breathed in the aroma of fall, I was struck with how this common fruit is really a superhero posing in plain clothing. Immortal and extraordinary, the apple has been flying out of phone booths and through history in art, science experiments, legends, and torrid love affairs. It has also been seen flexing its vast muscles and protecting health and smashing disease for centuries.

The wild apple of ancient Asia, malus pumila, a member of the rose family, is the ancestor of our current juicy superstar apple. The malus was small and sour, much like our crab apples. There are many tales told of this ancient apple and its rise to fame but the ever imaginative Romans are credited with cultivating it into the predecessor of our caped crusader. They began the magic by creating 7 different varieties of the apple. There are now over 7,500 varieties of apples being grown worldwide. The leading producer of apples is China, (big surprise!) with the US coming in second with Washington State as the quarterback.

There is a wee bit of controversy that needs to be cleared up for our superstar.  The apple has never deserved the publicity that it was the downfall of the Garden of Eden. (But I guess every super hero is misunderstood occasionally.) According to historians there is no specific name given to the fruit Eve tasted from that notorious tree. They believe Eve’s fruit of temptation might have been a pomegranate or possibly even a quince since those were the popular fruit during the time the bible was written.

No matter what the mysterious past of the apple is, today it is the world’s favorite champion fruit with American’s eating an average of 50 pounds per person. Johnny Appleseed was on to something when he planted apple trees across the country, bringing nourishment for generations to come. (Even though it is rumored that he planted the trees for hard cider)

The nutritional benefits of our humble hotshot are astounding. A medium apple eaten raw with the peel on has only 81 calories and a whopping 3.7 grams of soluble fiber. (Make sure and eat them with the skin on, most of the good stuff is in there.) It is also loaded with antioxidants, potassium, folic acid, Vit C and calcium. The amazing apple also has been shown in studies to reduce the chance of lung, breast and colon problems and consequent cancer. An apple a day really does keep the doctor away!

How does one pick the right apple out of 7500 different varieties for the dish? I once again, sacrificed myself and my husband for the good of all, and found that out. Honeycrisps are the BEST for eating and baking. They even edged out the old reliable granny smiths. Galas are a pretty good all-around apple too if you can’t find honeycrisps. Macintoshes are the best applesauce apple but do not bake with them or you just get mush.

There are so many wonderful varieties of apples that are being dusted off from the past now, it is incredible to gaze upon them in wonder. The farmer’s market in Portland has a few apple farmer vendors that offer heirloom varieties that are flying back in style again.  It is so much fun to taste the difference in all these apples! I recommended you do your own personal trials with apples and see what you uncover of this super hero in disguise. Start with this very simple dish to highlight the brilliance of the apple.

Honey Apple Crisp

Honey Apple Crisp

This recipe can be gluten and dairy free, but not vegan due to its use of honey. If you wish to make vegan just sub maple syrup for the honey. Make sure and use organic apples as conventional apples are loaded with toxins. Serves 4-6

The fruit

4 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices

1/2 lemon, squeezed over the apples

1/2 cup of raisins (optional)

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of cardamom

2 tablespoons of honey

The crisp

1/2 cup of almond flour or wheat flour

1 cup of gluten free oats

A pinch of salt

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/4 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup of butter or coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup of honey

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and pick out a beautiful pie plate or 9×9 baking dish and lightly oil it. First, make the fruit filling by tossing the apples with the lemon juice in a mediumish bowl.  Sprinkle in the raisins and spices and toss till combined then drizzle in the honey and stir till well incorporated. Arrange the apple slices in your baking vessel and set aside till you get the topping made.

To make the topping, stir the flour, oats, pecans, salt and cinnamon together till it is all blended nicely.  While stirring this mix, slowly add your melted butter, then the honey till the mixture gets clumpy. Lastly, stir in your pure vanilla to make your nose dance.  Pour the crumble topping over the apples and pat down so it fills the crevasses of the apples. Tuck in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes till the topping is just starting to get golden and a knife easily slips into the apples. Try not to buzz about at the end of the baking as honey and nuts burn quickly. Serve with ice cream or vanilla yogurt. (of course)