The leaves on the trees are change colors and the chill in the air is becoming more crisp and prominent, signifying the end of a beautiful and sunny summer and the start of autumn. In Vancouver, rain and dreary weather is not uncommon during the fall season; however, there are some perks. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks to warm up those rushed walks to class on campus, cozy sweaters become the new norm, and apples are in season.
The old saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may hold some truth instead of just being a well-known proverb. Apples are a good source of fibre (2-5g of fibre/100g) and can help with lowering cholesterol and acute constipation. Generally, 25-38g of fibre is the recommended total daily intake to keep constipation at bay. They also contain antioxidants, which can help with maintaining a healthy immune system and overall general health. New evidence suggest that apples can also help with lowering blood sugar levels, and decrease the risk of asthma or experiencing an asthmatic attack. This is especially important as the prevalence of type 2 diabetes increases globally and asthmatics are more likely to experience attacks when exposed to the cold and dry air.
There are many apple varieties available at the local grocery store, and numerous ways that apples can be consumed. The most common way is eating them how they come, as a whole or cut in slices. Apples tend to brown after being sliced. The browning doesn’t affect the apple’s taste or nutritional value, but it may not look as appetizing. The browning is caused by oxidation of colorless compounds within the apple tissue cells into brown-colored compounds. This can be prevented by soaking the apple slices in water with a couple drops of lemon juice before serving or packing. The lemon juice contains antioxidants that can coat the slices and slow the browning process. The juices can also be extracted and heated with other ingredients like cinnamon to make apple cider, or the apple can be puréed to make apple sauce for a quick and easy snack on the go. However, the excess processing tends to reduce the nutritional benefits of the raw apple, such as the fibre content provided from the raw apple. For those who are more adventurous, apples can be incorporated into baked works of art: apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream, apple crumble hot from the oven, or coated with chocolate or sugar syrup and decorated with different toppings.
As the apples are now at their peak season, choosing those to take home shouldn’t be too difficult. However, it’s good to keep in mind that apples with vibrant colors that are firm without any wrinkles or bruises are most desirable. Red and Golden Delicious apples are the sweetest ones, while Fuji apples are slightly tart, with Granny Smith apples being the most tart. They are best stored at low temperatures, around 2-4oC, and can be kept up to 3 to 4 months without spoiling. Keep in mind though that bruised apples release an unusual amount of ethylene gas which can reduce the freshness of surrounding apples.
Next time when the autumn weather gifts Vancouver with a shower of rain or a gust of cold air, remember that there are shiny, ripe apples waiting to be taken home and ready to provide all of its nutrients and health benefits to keep the doctor away.