At the Market: Apples


As fall gets closer, everything apple comes to mind. Warm apple pie, apple crisp, apple cobbler. The smell of hot apple cider wanders through the air at the local farmers’ market. Families pick a variety from backyard trees and orchards. And a myriad of favorite apple desserts begin to decorate tables as the holiday season approaches. Apples are a great source of vitamins A and C and they are also rich in the flavonoid quercetin—a powerful antioxidant that may help to prevent cancer and heart disease. However, as apples top the list of the dirty dozen—12 of the most chemical- and pesticide-heavy fruits and vegetables—it is important to hunt out organic apples whenever possible.

Apples have been grown in temperate zones around the world for at least 3,000 years. Today there are thousands of varieties available year-round; however, the best time to enjoy apples is in the fall, right after they have been harvested. Listed below are a few favorites all-purpose apples:

Baldwin: red skin streaked with yellow, a mildly sweet-tart flavor, and fairly crisp texture
Braeburn: mottled red and yellow skin, and crisp, sweet-tart finish
Cortland: smooth, shiny red skin and juicy, crisp, sweet-tart flesh that resists browning
Criterion: bright red skin with green highlights and a slightly tart, juicy flesh
Fuji: green to yellow undercolor blushed with red and a fragrantly sweet, crisp, and juicy flesh
Gala: red mottled with yellow, sweet and slightly spicy, crisp, and juicy
Golden Delicious: yellow to yellow-green skin and a sweet, crisp, juicy flesh that resists browning
Granny Smith: freckled green skin and sweetly tart, moderately juicy flesh
Gravenstein: green skin streaked with red, and a crisp, juicy, sweetly tart flesh
Jonagold: cross between a Golden Delicious and Jonathan, with a mottled red and yellow skin and moderately crispy, very juicy, sweet-tart flesh
Jonathan: bright-red skin, with a spicy fragrance and juicy, sweet-tart flavor (not good for baking whole)
Lady Apple: skin color ranging from brilliant red to yellow with red blushing, and a sweet-tart flesh
Macoun: red-wine color and a crisp, juicy, sweetly tart flesh
McIntosh: bright-red skin sometimes tinged with green, and a medium-crisp, tart-sweet flesh that doesn’t hold up to lengthy cooking
Newton pippin (also just pippin): greenish-yellow to yellow skin and a crisp, juicy, slightly tart flesh
Northern Spy: red skin streaked with yellow and a sweet-tart flavor
Pink Lady: pinkish-red skin and crisp, sweetly tart flesh with hints of kiwi and raspberry
Rhode Island Greening: green to yellow-green skin and a sweet-tart flesh that seems to intensify in flavor when cooked, which is why most of the crop is sold for commercial processing (applesauce, pies, etc.)
Stayman Winesap: a cross between the Red Delicious and Winesap with a yellow-striped/red skin and juicy, crisp, tart flesh
Winesap: deep red skin, with a juicy, tart, crisp flesh
York Imperial: red skin streaked with yellow and a firm flesh that’s tartly sweet

For whole, baked apples, the Rome Beauty is the ultimate choice. It has a deep-red skin with some yellow speckling and a firm, mildly sweet flesh. When baking, the Braeburn, Gala, Gravenstein, and York Imperial are also great choices. And, of course, there’s the Red Delicious with its brilliant red color and elongated shape. However, its lack of distinguishing tartness makes it great for eating out of hand, but not the best choice for cooking.

Buying and storing
When looking for organic apples, especially in the fall, your local farmers’ market is a great place to start. Many local growers offer a variety of pesticide-free apples at an affordable price. Look for smooth, undamaged skin and a fresh fragrance. You will usually be able to buy 2–4 apples per pound. Once purchased, apples will keep best in the refrigerator as they ripen nearly 10 times faster when stored in the kitchen or outside. Properly stored, apples can keep up to 3 months or puréed and frozen for much longer.