Garden to Table
November 23, 2008
A great source of fat-free dietary fiber, apples are thought to promote weight loss and aid in digestion. Consumed with the peel, an apple contains more than 10% of the recommended daily fiber intake, which in turn helps lower cholesterol. Also, people who consume apples are 21% less likely to have a large waistline.
Apples can flourish in a wide range of soils, but do best in well-drained sandy loam or clay. For optimal results, apple trees should be planted where the crop can be exposed to full sun. Plants should go in the ground in early spring and take anywhere from two to 10 years to fruit, depending on variety.
All apples trees sold for home gardens consist of two parts grafted together to form the tree. The part that bears fruit is called the scion. The bottom of the tree, or rootstock, controls the size of the apple tree. Apples have a long shelf life, but are best stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity. To prevent dehydration, they can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Crisp and white-fleshed, these red, green or yellow fruits can be sweet or tart and everything in between. Traditionally, in the Northern Hemisphere, apples are a late summer to early winter fruit. Global harvesting, however, makes it possible to enjoy them year round. The U.S. is only second to China as the world’s largest apple producer.
According to the U.S. Apple Association, there are approximately 7,500 apple producers growing nearly 100 varieties of apples in 36 states. The top six apple-producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
More than 60% of the apples grown in the U.S. are sold as fresh fruit. The rest of the apples produced domestically are processed into either apple juice or canned, frozen and dried apple products. Rome Beauty, Idared, Cortland, and Golden Delicious are the four most commonly used varieties for applesauce.
The sweet Red Delicious apple is the most grown in the U.S., followed by the mild Gala. Slightly tart Fuji apples are increasing in production, and newer varieties, like the crunchy Honeycrisp, are gaining in popularity as well.
Season-average prices to growers for all sales in 2007 were 28.4 cents per pound, a 24% increase from the average price of 22.9 cents per pound in 2006. The USDA forecasts the 2008 apple crop at 9.2 billion pounds.