Happy September! This month brings a hint of autumn in the air, as well as another SOS Kitchen Challenge, the monthly recipe event hosted by Ricki of Diet, Dessert, and Dogs and me. Up here in the north, mornings are getting cooler, the leaves are starting to look slightly more golden, and the gardens are delivering all their bounty, urging us to preserve food for winter. Soon it will be time for warm stews and soups. But before we pull out our winter gear, we have the golden days of autumn ahead of us.
This month's SOS Kitchen Challenge is featuring one of the tastiest foods of early autumn, a fruit that is delicious, nutritious, and has appeared prominently throughout history. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree that bore these fruits, resulting in God banishing them from the garden and punishing all of mankind by cursing women with painful labor and childbirth (um, aren't you glad that doesn't really happen when we have a fruit craving?). Some millennia later, William Tell was challenged to shoot an arrow through one of these fruits on top his son's head, in exchange for his freedom from some pesky Austrian emporers. Not so long after that, Isaac Newton formulated that whole notion of gravity by watching one fall off a tree. And most recently, one of these little beauties put the legendary Snow White to sleep.
That's right friends, we are featuring none other than the humble apple this month.
A Not-So-Brief History of Apples
Originally from Eastern Europe and southwestern Asia, apples are an ancient fruit loved by people since prehistoric times. Carbonized remains of apples have been found by archaeologists in Swiss prehistoric lake dwellings, dating all the way back to the Iron Age! There is also evidence that shows European Stone Age peoples preserved apples by slicing and sun drying them. Here is a bit of additional interesting apple history from World's Healthiest Foods:
Apples have long been associated with the biblical story of Adam and Eve, although there is actually no mention that, in fact, the fruit in question was actually an apple. In Norse mythology, apples were given a more positive persona: a magic apple was said to keep people young forever. Apples' most recent appearance in history occurred in the 1800s in the U.S., when Johnny Appleseed-a real person named John Chapman, despite the mythological quality of his tale-walked barefoot across an area of 100,000 square miles, planting apple trees that provided food and a livelihood for generations of settlers.
Apples often appeared in Medieval and Renaissance artwork to symbolize contemptuous earthly desires and denote the fall of man (there's that old Adam and Eve story again). It was also used as a symbol of love and sexuality, of youth and immortality, and rather conversely as a momento mori, an object meant to remind you of your mortality and inevitable death. And let us not forget the slew of still life paintings that feature apples: I don't know what all those Spanish and Flemish still life painters would have done without them! But it didn't stop there - where would we be without Paul Cézanne's apples? Cézanne painted hundreds upon hundreds of apples, developing a new approach to form that inspired artists like Matisse, Picasso, and many other twentieth century artists. He is famously quoted as saying "I will astonish Paris with an apple!" after all.
Art history nerd, guilty as charged.
some of the many varieties of Minnesota apples displayed at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair
Moving on. As the art of budding and grafting trees became more widely explored, many varieties of apple were cultivated all around the world. This has resulted in an incredible amount of biodiversity - approximately 10,000 different varieties of apples are grown worldwide, with more than 7,000 of those grown in the United States. With such incredible diversity, it is a shame that we only see a few varieties on our supermarket shelves, many of which are imported! Apples are a member of the rose family, like pears. Each variety of apple has a distinctive appearance, texture, flavor, and culinary benefit. Colors range from pale pink to various shades of red and gold to light yellows and greens. Some apples are mottled and striped, while others are solid colored. Sizes range from marble-sized crabapples to very large apples like the Wolf River variety, which can grow to be the size of a cantaloupe and weigh nearly 1 pound! If you want to read about many varieties of apples, Orange Pippin is a great site.
Some apples are better for eating raw, while others are better for cooking, and are therefore referred to as "cooking apples". Apples that are best used in cooking or baking have a lower sugar content than eating apples. They are usually more tart and also generally hold up in long-term storage better than eating apples. You can certainly use an eating apple in a recipe or eat a cooking apple out of hand, but for best results, you may want to seek out the right type of apple for your culinary project.
Because of apples' susceptibility to insect damage, conventional apples are heavily treated with pesticides, and picked apples are often coated with petroleum-based food waxes for preservation. Chemical residues remain on apples even if you wash them, which can cause allergic reactions, mouth irritation, and may weaken the immune system and lead to other diseases. While you could peel the apple to remove some of the chemical toxins, most of the apple's fiber is contained in its skin, as is the majority of its quercitin, so you really miss out on the most beneficial part of the fruit. By choosing organic apples, you can eliminate your exposure to toxic residues and eat the entire apple with confidence, gaining as much nutrition as possible!
Perfectly suited for a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes, apples are a remarkably versatile and nutritious fruit. While they are certainly delicious eaten out of hand, prepared as applesauce, chutneys, and apple butter, and made into various sweet desserts like cakes, pies, crisps, tarts, and turnovers, apples also make an excellent addition to salads, soups, stuffings, and smoothies. According to World's Healthiest Foods, apples are high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, and beneficial flavonoids that support lung and heart health.
Apples at Aamodt's Apple Orchard in Stillwater, MN
Want to Participate in the Challenge?
If you'd like to participate in the challenge, all you need to do is post a new recipe, either one of your own or an adaptation of someone else's (with proper credits, of course). Then submit it through a link form at the bottom of this page (no more e-mailing, for all you past participants). Please enter the recipe description, your name, and your blog's name in the description, and upload a photo, following the Linky prompts. Your photo and description will appear on both Ricki's and my blog, and will link that will direct readers to your blog, doubling your exposure We'll leave the form open until the end of the month, just in time for the next SOS Challenge! Please be sure to link up to this page, and mention the SOS Challenge in your blog post.
Also, please remember to follow the rules - vegan, no refined sugars, and natural, whole foods ingredients only - or at the very least, make sure you offer reliable substitutions for those things in your recipe if you use something else. Recipes that do not comply will be removed from the Linky list.
We look forward to sharing our apple recipes with you and seeing what you create! Check back often to see all the great submissions to this month's SOS challenge!