Summer scorchers have passed and fall is in the air. Our plant today flourishes this time of year. Producing a mixture of red, green and yellow pomes; a fruit that develops a fleshy, skin coat and seeds hidden in the core. This iconic tree dates back thousands of years, with earliest accounts coming out of Kazakhstan.
We’re fortunate to have over 7,000 different species, making it the most diverse fruit in existence. Picking these delectable treats is a seasonal ritual for many.
Your doctor recommends you eat one per day to keep him away. You got it now? I’m sure you do.
This one is a slam dunk!
Time to pick over the apple tree.
Your climate must be suitable to grow an apple tree. Some trees are classified as “hardy” and grow better in northern regions, where spring and fall months are mild and damp. The other type is a “long season” tree. They grow better in warmer climates, found in areas further south.
Growing an apple tree is not hard. They do well in most sunny areas with well drained soil. That being said, growing a successful apple tree can be tricky. It’s fun to experiment growing your own tree from seed, but oftentimes the fruits of your labor will be absent.
I don’t recommend growing an apple tree from seed. It can be done, but seeds are not as prosperous as their parent tree. The process is fairly involved and it will take nearly a decade before substantial fruit forms.
If you’d like to give it a try, prep your seed in chilled soil for 3-4 months, until you get a seedling. Plant the tiny seedling in soil and nurture it. It will need 6 hours of sun with adequate water.
Other criteria to consider before planting:
- Find an open area to allow the wind to dry out wet leaves. Leaves that stay wet are susceptible to fungus and disease.
- The pollen from two different apple trees is needed to cross pollinate. The two trees must be different cultivars that produce flowers at the same time.
- Pollinators like bees must be present for cross pollinating.
- Spraying your apple trees must be done. They are notorious for attracting pests and contracting fungal diseases.
Having just one tree will not suffice, they need to cross pollinate, unless you are keen on grafting techniques. I hear it’s not as hard as one would imagine, but I have no experience with it. Some species can self-pollinate, but even they benefit from having neighboring apple trees.
Apple trees will flower before they produce fruit. Flowers are white or pink, depending on the type of apple. Once the flower is pollinated, the fruit forms at the base of the flower.
Make sure to always rinse your apples. Try not to peel off skin. The skin contains much of the fiber and flavonoids. Consuming the skin allows your belly to feel fuller, for a longer period. It slows down digestion and prevents the urge to eat again.
Other health benefits:
- Antioxidant rich which can slow down the growth rate of cancerous cells.
- Low in cholesterol and fat and a high source of Vitamin C.
- Promotes a healthy heart, bones and immune system.
You can store apples at room temperature but they ripen quicker than if you refrigerate them. The best apples for cooking are honeycrisp and Granny Smith. They’re firm with a subtle sour taste which is ideal for baking pies. My favorite apples to eat raw are red delicious (not just a clever name), Fuji or Gala.
Our kitchen at home turns apples into all kinds of drinks and dishes. My two specialities are apple juice and applesauce. Both fairly simple and quick to make.
- Cut up apples and place them in a pot. Add just enough water to cover the top of the apple slices. Set the water to boil for about 20 minutes, or until your apples are soft. We use coffee filters and place them in our mesh strainer. You’ll then want to ladle the hot juice while gently smooshing the apples. Once all the juice has been extracted, let it cool.
- Add more water to dilute a strong tasting juice or add a touch of cinnamon or sugar to flavor your product.
- Be sure to drink it within a few days. Unlike juice from a store, it has no preservatives. You can add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to prevent the juice from turning brown.
- Cut up apples and place them in a pot with water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to medium for 15-20 minutes. Add cinnamon or sugar for flavor. Allow the apples to cool.
- I use my food processor to whip them into a purée of sorts. A potato masher or blender does the trick just fine. It makes a great siding on many dinner plates.
As we depart the orchard, we discover a few fun facts.
Apples are made up of 25% air. This makes it possible to play the age old game “bobbing for apples”.
The apple tree is closely related to the rose bush, the pear tree and peach tree.
Johnny Appleseed was real (Appleseed wasn’t his real last name). He planted apple trees across America. He was claiming land by planting trees and then selling “his” land to others. Back then planting trees and starting an orchard meant you owned that land. Well played Johnny!
See ya next time.