It’s that time of year again. Bright yellow school buses pick up children, orange leaves fall from trees, sweaters adorn store shelves and plump red apples hang from the trees. Good for eating, baking, decorating and giving to teachers, the apples are ripe and ready to be picked.
“The apple crop is down from last year, but there is still plenty of locally grown fruit available to consumers,” said Michele Warmund, MU professor of horticulture.
The reason the crop is smaller this year is because of the lack of pollination in the spring, she said. Bees are not effective pollinators under rainy, cool or windy weather.
“We certainly had our share of rainy weather during the time of pollen shed,” Warmund said.
Most apple growers here have drip irrigation and can supply water to the trees during drought. However, high temperatures and solar radiation just before harvest can cause sunburn injury. A few early-ripening cultivars were injured by sunburn from the 100 degree temperatures in mid-August, Warmund said.
Because of their wide availability, apples have become a favorite fruit. However, they are more than just tasty snacks.
Apples are considered a healthy food. They are fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free as well as a good source of fiber. A medium-sized apple has five grams of fiber, which supplies 20 percent of the daily fiber recommendation.
Apples also contain vitamins A, B1, B2, C, niacin and minerals — calcium, phosphorus, iron, iodine and potassium.
Another reason apples are a favorite fruit is because there are endless possibilities when it comes to cooking with them. They can be frozen, dried, baked, fried or juiced. They can make pies, butters, glazes, cakes, breads or beverages. While some types of apples work better for certain things, there is an apple for every taste and every use.
The three main types of apples grown in Missouri are the Jonathan, the Red Delicious and the Golden Delicious.
The Jonathan is the leading Missouri-variety apple. It can be baked, cooked or eaten fresh, and it is best for applesauce and apple butter.
While the Red Delicious is not recommended for cooking, it is best for fresh desserts and salads.
As a naturally sweet apple, the Golden Delicious works best for pies and tarts and also goes well on salads.
Apples are also popular because, if properly stored, they can last a long time. Placed in a plastic bag to retain their juiciness, apples should be stored in the crisper drawer of a refrigerator. The cool air in this part of the fridge, 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, helps to prevent decay and maintains quality and crispness. When left at room temperature, apples will ripen 10 times faster than if they are refrigerated.
Since there so many different cultivars, people with different likes and dislikes can be sure to find an apple that suits their tastes.
“I don’t have a personal favorite; I eat all cultivars as they come off the tree. I follow the old adage, ‘variety is the spice of life,’ and with the many different cultivars available on the market, apples can provide a real source of spice,” Warmund said.