Why Eat It
Nutrition Chart

Why Eat It

An apple a day provides respectable amounts of both insoluble and soluble fiber (including pectin), some vitamin C, and potassium. Apples are also a good source of quercetin, a flavonoid that may help protect against heart disease. The fruit is fibrous, juicy, and non-sticky, making it a good tooth cleaner and gum stimulator (although you should still brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with water after eating an apple because of the acids in the juice). Apples are widely available and they store well if refrigerated; keeping them chilled preserves their crispness and conserves their nutrients.


About 2,500 apple varieties are grown in the U.S., but just eight of them make up 80% of the U.S. crop. These aren't necessarily the tastiest varieties, but the ones that are disease-resistant and that ship and store well. Some of the other varieties are available seasonally.

Golden Delicious: An all-purpose apple. Season: Year-round

Granny Smith: A hard, crisp, rather tart, green-skinned apple. All-purpose. Season: Year-round

Jonathan: A smallish, deep red apple with yellow undertones, and juicy, firm yellow flesh. All purpose. Season: September through spring

McIntosh: A green-red, juicy, mildly tart apple. Best raw, quickly sautéed, or made into sauce (turns mushy when overcooked). Season: September through spring

Red Delicious: This familiar bright red apple has thin but tough skin, and crisp, juicy, sweet-tasting flesh. Best eaten raw or in salads; disintegrates when cooked. Season: Year-round

Rome Beauty: This large, red or red-striped apple holds its shape well, so it's perfect for baking whole. Season: October through July

Stayman: All-purpose apple with purplish red skin and mildly tart, juicy flesh. Season: September through spring

York: Also known as York Imperial; has pinkish red skin, often freckled with pale spots. Flesh is yellow, tart-sweet, and moderately juicy. Best for baking. Season: October through spring

Cortland: A large apple with deep purplish-red skin and snow-white flesh. Good raw and baked in pies. Season: September through spring

Crispin: Also known as Mutsu, this large, firm, sweet, green-skinned apple is a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Japanese apple called Indo. All-purpose. Season: Year-round

Empire: This cross of the McIntosh with the Red Delicious is a crisp, juicy, fragrant apple with relatively thick skin. For eating fresh or making sauce. Season: September through spring

Gravenstein: This distinctively red-striped, moderately tart apple is used primarily to make commercial applesauce; occasionally sold fresh. All-purpose apple. Season: Late summer through early fall

Idared: An all-purpose red-skinned apple with a mild flavor. Season: September through early spring

Macoun: Tart, juicy apple with red and green skin. Excellent raw. Season: September through November

Newtown Pippin: This tart green apple is a very old American variety. Generally used in cooking but also suitable for eating fresh. Season: September through February

Northern Spy: Large red-green apple with firm, tart yellow flesh. Good for pies. Season: Late fall through early winter

Rhode Island Greening: Although not widely available, this East Coast green apple is excellent for pie-making. Season: October through November

Winesap: One of the oldest varieties in the United States; has a tangy, wine-like flavor. The flesh is firm and juicy, the skin a deep red-purple. All-purpose apple. Season: October through July


Commercial apple growing is concentrated in the northern U.S. (especially Washington, Michigan, and New York), as the trees require a period of cold weather in order to flower and fruit properly. About half the domestic crop is processed into applesauce, jellies, juice, and other apple products.

Of the apples cultivated for the fresh market, about half are preserved by a process known as "controlled atmosphere" (or CA) storage. CA storage ensures that apples stay in good condition three to six times as long as normal cold storage, and thanks to this process, firm, fresh-tasting apples are available year round. Some varieties, such as Delicious, McIntosh, and Rome Beauty, fare better than others in CA storage. Some or all of the "big eight" (see "Varieties," above) are available for most of the year, although quality may vary with the season. Investigate local sources, such as orchards and farmers' markets, to discover less common varieties.


Shop where apples are kept cold, or they may be mealy and insipid. After January, almost any apple you buy will probably have been stored in CA (see "Availability," above): Although CA storage slows aging, it does not stop it, and CA-stored apples, once removed from their controlled environment, deteriorate just as quickly as freshly picked fruit. Apples should be firm to hard--if you can dent them with your fingers, they'll make disappointing eating. Large apples are more likely to be overripe than smaller ones, so pay extra attention to firmness when buying them. Apples should also be well colored for their variety. The skins should be tight, unbroken, and unblemished, although brown freckles or streaks (russeting) are characteristic of some varieties and do not affect flavor.


Cold temperatures keep apples in "suspended animation," preventing them from ripening further after they are picked. Since most apples are picked at peak ripeness, additional "ripening" actually means "decaying"--and this process speeds up tenfold when the fruit is left at room temperature. Place apples in plastic bags and keep them in the refrigerator. If they were in good condition when you bought them, they should keep for up to six weeks. Check them often and remove any decayed apples, since one rotten apple can indeed spoil the whole bushel.


Wash apples before using. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel, if desired, removing the thinnest possible layer of skin. To core apples, use an apple corer or quarter the fruit and then cut out the semicircular wedge that contains the seeds. To prevent browning, rub cut or peeled surfaces with a mixture of lemon juice and water, or drop sliced or peeled apples into cold water with some lemon juice added.

Bake: Cut cone-shaped "caps" from tops of unpeeled apples and remove cores without cutting through bottoms. Pare a ribbon of peel from around "beltline" of each fruit (to keep skin from splitting during baking). Fill apples with raisins, or chopped figs, some brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, and spices, and replace the caps, Set the apples in a baking pan small enough to just hold them in a single layer, pour in some apple juice or cider to keep apples from drying out. Bake at 350°F, basting frequently with the juice in the pan for 40 minutes until tender.

Microwave: For a quick breakfast fruit, snack, or dessert: Place cored apples, stuffed if desired (see above), in custard cups; pour 1 tablespoon water or cider over each. Cover with waxed paper and cook until tender. Cooking times: for 2 apples, 4 minutes; for 4 apples, 8 minutes.

Sauté: To accompany poultry, beef, veal, or pork: Saute unpeeled apple slices, using an assortment of red, yellow, and green varieties. Core and slice apples, then sauté in apple cider or apple juice; add just a touch of butter for flavor. For a German-style side dish, sauté shredded cabbage along with the apples. Cooking time: 3 to 5 minutes.

Apple butter: This thick, delicious spread is made by slowly cooking down applesauce until much of the liquid has evaporated. For a homemade version, prepare homemade applesauce, then continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently, until very thick and smooth. Flavor as desired with spices, lemon zest, etc.

Applesauce: Sweetened commercial applesauce may have 75% more calories than unsweetened varieties. Homemade applesauce is simple to prepare and needs no added sugar if sweet apples are used. Core peeled or unpeeled apples (unpeeled red apples produce rosy applesauce, but the sauce must be passed through a food mill after cooking). Cut the apples into slices or chunks; place them in a saucepan with very little water, apple juice, or cider—about 1/4 cup to 3 pounds of apples (just enough liquid to prevent the apples from sticking to the pan). Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft. (If using unpeeled apples, put them through a food mill at this point to remove the peels.) Mash the apples--leave them slightly chunky, if you like--then taste and add spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or ginger), vanilla or almond extract, lemon zest, or grated fresh ginger, and cook for another minute or so to blend the flavors. Cooking time: about 15 minutes.

To make applesauce in the microwave: Place cored, peeled or unpeeled, sliced apples in a microwavable baking dish, cover and cook until tender. Remove apples from the microwave, push through a food mill if you've used unpeeled apples or mash if you've used peeled apples, and season them. Cooking time: 20 minutes.

Nutrition Chart

Apples/1 medium, unpeeled

Total fat (g)
Saturated fat (g)
Monounsaturated fat (g)
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
Dietary fiber (g)
Carbohydrate (g)
Cholesterol (mg)
Sodium (mg)

Date Published: 04/19/2005
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