One of aspects crucial to living a greener life is purchasing our foods as locally and seasonally as possible.
I have a feeling this is why I love the summer and fall seasons more than any others. I tend to live on fruits and vegetables during the summer months, and when it comes to fall my every other thought becomes apple-centric. I am also confident there is no smell more wonderful than that of baking apples. Except, perhaps, that of an apple baking in brown sugar and butter… But, more of that coming later… (stick with me!) For starters, let’s delve into the very basics: what apples are seasonal now and how to go about picking them.
Even when it comes to late October and early November, your fall apple choices are still abundant and varied. Whether you’re headed out to your nearby orchard or you plan on perusing the local farmer's market, try to look for these particular varieties first:
- Red Delicious (September – October)
- Empire (late September – October)
- Rome (late September – October)
- Golden Delicious (early October)
- Stayman (mid October)
- Braeburn (mid October)
- Cameo (mid October)
- Fuji (late October)
- Jonagold (late October)
- Crispps Pink (late October – early November)
- Granny Smith (early November)
If you plan on picking quantities of apples large enough to justify driving to a local apple orchard, pick-your-own options are by far the greenest, most sustainable way to go. Not only are you supporting local and cutting down all the cost and pollution racked up with hauling the produce, you will be able to more legitimately pick the ripest apples.
A good farmer can actually calculate when the apples are at their optimum ripeness based upon when the tree first flowered. Since the apples ripen from the outside of the tree in, you can even more specifically narrow in on which apples you should pick and which you should leave on the tree. As an extra bonus: if you plan on canning or preserving the apples, you can take advantage of using the bruised or fallen apples that might otherwise not be able to be sold (and maybe even get a discounted price on these).
After Picking Your Apples
When the apples are in your baskets and ready for home, do not wash them. In fact, you should even fully resist the temptation to get them cleaned up before you store them for the winter; this will only make them spoil faster. Unwashed apples can stay crisp for up to 90 days in a refrigerator. Minus refrigeration, your next best option is a cool, dark, mildly damp location. Humidity will protect your apples from withering or shriveling, but beware of taking this too far, as direct contact with water will spoil them.
One last word of caution on storing: if you have a common storage area for fruits and vegetables (like a root cellar), do not keep the apples near potatoes. As they age, potatoes release ethylene gas and this will ultimately make your apples spoil even faster.
While it’s nearly impossible to beat a crisp apple in the fall, there’s also little in my mind that tops pulling out a jar of canned apple pie filling mid-winter or taking a wintry hike through snow covered mountains with a bag of dried apple chips for some sustenance. If you are able to take advantage of picking large quantities of apples, I highly recommend you preserve them in some fashion (or fashions). This will give you that tantalizing taste of sweetness in those bleak winter months when the option for locally grown fruit likely becomes non-existent. If you’re in need, here are just a few ideas for what you can do with apples:
- Make apple cider
- Whip up some applesauce (frozen or canned)
- Dry apple slices
- Freeze apple slices
- Make canned apple pie filling
- Make apple jams or apple butter
Finally: as promised: for the easiest, best fall treat ever, try the following, and enjoy!
- Apples (1 per person -- or 2!)
- Brown Sugar
- Butter or vegan margarine
- Optional: walnuts, raisins, pecans
Core out the apple centers to remove seeds. Place in a baking pan with approximately 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Stuff the apple centers with brown sugar, butter and any additional "extras" you like. Place in oven and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 45 minutes or until apples are completely soft all the way through. For optimum results, serve with a splash of cream or a dollop of ice cream!
Photo by Becky Striepe