Apples are almost as much a traditional part of American cold weather holidays as turkey and cranberries. Enjoyed out-of-hand, in pies, cobblers, crisps, cakes, savory dishes and dried, or as apple juice, cider or applejack, they indicate why Americans consume about 25 pounds of apples a year. Apples also feature in holiday décor. My mother piled bowls with beautiful apples including the rough skinned yellow-brown russets, which we sold to Purdy’s, a local cider mill. And she wrapped our curving staircase with garlands fashioned of evergreens to which she attached crabapples and kumquats.

Many people think apples are native to America, but their origins lie in the lofty mountains of far off Kazakhstan where in the mists of time the original Malus sieversii proto-apple tree appeared and still grows today. An inscribed Mesopotamian tablet dated ca. 1500 B.C. records a deed of sale for an apple orchard by Tupkitilla, an Assyrian, in exchange for three sheep. English settlers brought apples to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. By the 19th century, apples were found everywhere and came in different forms. In 1905, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) noted that there were around 17,000 apple varieties. In actuality, it was around 14,000 because some names would overlap.

Today most people can name Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji and perhaps a dozen or so more varieties. Only 100 types are commercially grown but small scale and home orchards produce some 2,500 types and there is a movement to bring back heritage apples and create new varieties. There is mounting evidence that an (organic) apple a day does keep the doctor away. They are packed with essential nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals being studied for their role in cancer prevention. The flavonoids and nitrates in apples may help protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure, as well as improving endothelial function to regulate blood flow. Flavonoids are one of the most important naturally occurring phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. Remember, the peel has the highest concentration of phytochemicals, so be safe and buy organic fruit. Read more of this fascinating article at: Growing Apples in Florida (but not in Brevard): Apple Varieties in Hot Climates:

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