The air is crisp and the leaves are changing colors making the world around us incredibly beautiful! I will never forget the most amazing landscape I saw one morning as I made my way toward the busy route 9 in Poughkeepsie. It was a regular day, I was probably on my way to the pediatrician with my two-month old daughter. I am pretty sure that is the only place I took my precious first born baby until she was at least three or four months. Anyway, I had no idea that I was about to see more color than I could ever imagine. I turned my car onto the street to head into town and there it was, right in front of me, the image that will forever stay in my mind as a perfect picture of fall. There were so many colors: oranges, yellows, reds, purples. So bright and vivid. It took my breath away! I had never seen anything like it before. I think it was either New York’s way of welcoming me to its beautiful Hudson Valley or God’s way of welcoming me to a whole new life as a mother – encouraging me to remember to appreciate the simple things and stop calling the pediatrician over every cry. From that moment on, fall has remained a very special time of year for me and I find myself constantly looking for the same colors of that one gorgeous New York morning.
Fall in North Carolina is also wonderful! The temperature starts to cool a bit and we can even break out our jeans and sweaters. The sun shines, brightening up a clear blue sky. Everyone seems to be ready for football and fire pits. I am ready for apple picking! In New York, apple picking season started right about now, right when it comes to an end here in North Carolina. I loved bundling up for the traditional field trips to the orchards to pick apples and pumpkins. What a wonderful way to begin fall – homemade pies and applesauce (or galettes from Becki’s post earlier this week). Yum! But here in North Carolina, or at least in the Apex area, apple picking doesn’t seem to be that popular of an activity. Between school and family calendars, I can never seem to get my act together and plan a trip to the mountains before the season ends. But, thankfully, just the other week, I was talking with a friend who mentioned a local pick your own orchard – Millstone Creek Orchard. Excited to pick apples for the first time in five years, my family and I headed over to the orchard this past weekend. (I think I was the most excited.) What a treat!! There were tire swings, tetherball, a huge stack of hay to climb, hopscotch, and corn hole – old school games. Loved it! While the kids were playing, the orchard staff reminded visitors to get ready for the apple cider demonstration and to sign up for the pie eating contest! Pie eating contest!!! What fun! The apple cider demo was very cool. Kids were able to help with the process and learn what goes into making one of their favorite fall treats. It was a lot of work but the finished product was delicious! Everyone got a taste. Up next was the pie eating contest! I have to brag – we dominated! My two oldest daughters finished first and second in the juniors and my husband placed first in the adult contest. I am so proud! ( I think…)
After the contests were over, we headed to the tractor for our hayride to the orchards. Our first stop was the Fugi apple trees! The kids quickly learned that it takes time to pick apples. They had to search for just the right apples and then bend, reach (or sit on daddy’s shoulders) to pick it from the tree
Next stop, pumpkins, gourds, and Muscadine grapes.
By the time we got to the vines, most of the grapes were gone. Luckily, we found just enough for each of us to have a taste. As with anything, some of us liked them and some of us did not. Otherwise known as America’s first grape, Muscadine grapes are grown in the southeastern United States. They are used for jellies, jams, wine, and juice. In fact, we all agreed that when you eat one of these grapes, it tastes just like grape juice. They are well-known for their health benefits too – but I can talk about that another time.
It was definitely a hot day for apple picking, so we hopped back on the hayride and headed to the orchard store for some ice cold apple cider slushees. A delicious way to end a fun afternoon!
One more thing I would like to mention about this orchard, is that they have a pick your own herb garden and it is FREE! I think that is such a great idea…especially the free part. I just wish I live closer to enjoy that perk. I also wish I had more time to shop around the store and browse through their cookbooks, BBQ sauces, and more.
Okay, so now, since this is the nutrition portion of this blog and because Becki said I would talk about apples, I kind of think I should talk about this glorious fruit. Despite the apple’s rough start in the Garden of Eden, the apple is in fact a fruit you should definitely eat! They are an easy way to satisfy a craving for something sweet or crunchy, a refreshing addition to a salad, and a quick food to toss into the lunchbox! I am sure you want to know more…
Quick Apple Facts:
- A medium apple contains about 100 calories and counts as one cup of fruit (USDA).
- Buy organic – Apples ranked #1 on the Environmental Working Group‘s analysis of pesticide residue on 48 fresh produce items. That means apples have the most residue. If you are like me and eat/feed them to your family constantly, buy organic apples. Trader Joe’s tends to sell bags of organic apples regularly for a pretty good price. Often they are small, a perfect size for a satisfying quick snack.
- Pectin (a soluble fiber in apples) will help you feel full faster and longer.
- The fiber in apples helps treat both diarrhea and constipation. (Helpful to know, especially with our sweet little ones…)
- Apples’ fiber and antioxidants work together to lower cholesterol levels and help maintain a healthy heart.
- Eat the apple peel. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating a medium apple with its peel will provide you with 4.4 grams of fiber. Discarding the peel, also discards over half the fiber, leaving you with only 2.1 grams. (2.7 grams in 1 cup of applesauce and 0.5 grams in 1 cup of apple juice)
- The effect apple juice has on people with Alzheimer’s disease has also been studied. The study did not show a correlation to cognitive function, but did suggest a direct positive relationship between intake and mood of those progressing with the disease.
- There are over 2.500 varieties grown here in the U.S. and over 7,000 grown worldwide.
- The crabapple is the only variety native to the U.S.
- Apples are part of the rose family.
- Store apples in the fridge – room temps hasten ripening.
- To prevent apples from browning, I usually squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on the apples. If you are doing a large batch of apples, you can soak the slices in 1 cup of water/1T lemon juice for 5 minutes, 1 cup of water/1tsp salt for 5 minutes, or 1 cup water/2T honey for 5 minutes. Either way, you should have crisp and fresh looking apples!
- Next time you bob for apples, consider this fact: the apples are floating because a quarter of their volume is air.
October is National Apple Month! I am sure you are going to run to the store, farmers market, or orchard and pick yourself up a bushel. The variety of apple you purchase will depend on what you want to do with them.
More specifically, if you will be making:
Cider or Applesauce… use McIntosh apples
Candy Apples… use Gala (and if you are bobbing for apples)
Caramel Apples or Apple Pie… use Granny Smith
Apple Butter… use Fugi
Apple Bread… use Honey Crisp
Check out the Pretty In The Peak Pinterest page for a great link to thegoodstuff All About Apples. It goes into more details about the apple varieties. I also referred to the American Heart Association for pieces of this information. The U.S. Apple Association is another great resource to check out if you want to learn more about apples.
I also referenced a book my sister, Mary Beth, gave me: Healing Foods published by DK. I love this book because of the detail the authors give to each food they evaluate. You will learn the key health benefits of that food, how to maximize those benefits, and preparation suggestions. They also provide recipes and menus for specific goals, for example, a menu for a ‘Day of Women’s Health. It is definitely a handy reference to have around. (Thanks again, MB!)
Thanks for reading! Enjoy your fall and some delicious apples too!
Stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay Pretty In The Peak!
Marianne Lindgren, MS, RD