Grown in temperate zones throughout the world and cultivated for at least 3,000 years, apple varieties now number well into the thousands. Apples range in color from lemony yellow to bright yellow-green to crimson red. Their textures range from tender to crisp, their flavors from sweet to tart and from simple to complex. They're available year-round but are at their best in the autumn when newly harvested. Buy firm, well-colored apples with a fresh (never musty) fragrance. The skins should be smooth and free of bruises and gouges. Scald (a dry, tan- or brown-colored area on the skin of an apple) doesn't usually affect its flavor. Apples come two to four per pound, depending on size. Store apples in a cool, dark place. They do well placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. Choose apples by how you intend to use them — for eating raw or cooking. All-purpose apples, good for eating raw as well as for cooking, include the following: Baldwin, Braeburn, Cortland, Criterion, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Jonathan, Lady apple, Macoun, McIntosh, Newtown Pippin (also known simply as Pippin), Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Rhode Island Greening, Stayman Winesap, Winesap and York Imperial. For whole baked apples, the apple of choice is Rome beauty. Other good bakers are Braeburn, Gala, Gravenstein and York Imperial. Apples are a good source of vitamins A and C. They're also rich in the powerful flavonoid quercetin, which acts as antioxidant and may prevent some some cancers and protect the arteries and heart. Whole fruit is better than apple juice, which loses 80 percent of its quercetin during processing. See also candied apple; crabapple; may apple; red delicious.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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