Make the Most of Apple Season in Virginia
hile we live in an era when apples, as with most produce, are available year-round, now is the perfect time to eat local, Heirloom variety apples. Virginia was once the apple capital of the country. (Many varieties are unique to and continue to be grown here in small, family-owned orchards). Apples are at their nutritional and flavor peak through November. Plus, there’s just something about apple-related foods and activities that pairs perfectly with fall in Virginia. Charlottesville and the surrounding areas are full of apple orchards. Many, such as Carter Mountain, also have engaging programming throughout the fall. Click here for a list of Virginia apple orchards to visit. It’s time to make the most of apple season in Virginia!
Much of the Commonwealth is apple country. Our rainfall enriched soil and climate contribute to an ideal environment for growing many varieties of apples. Virginia produces an average of 5-6 million bushels annually! Many of Virginia’s apples are grown in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as the Roanoke Valley, the countrysides of Albemarle and Rappahannock counties, and Patrick and Carroll counties. The majority of our apples are harvested in September. We’re grateful to live in a state with such fertile soil and produce! Don’t be afraid of the less-than-supermarket-perfect appearance of local apples. In fact, the weirder the better! It’s normal for apples of various varieties to appear in many different sizes and shapes.
Why apples? They’re not only highly nutritional in their whole food form, but many recipes and drinks involving apples have added benefits. Read on for the health benefits of apples and apple products.
The nutritional benefits of apples
As mentioned, in their whole form, apples pack a nutritional punch. They’re one of the easiest, most affordable, tasty and healthy snacks one can take to go. Apples are rich sources of both insoluble and soluble fiber and will help keep your digestive system running smoothly. They’re also rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, such as Phytochemicals (quercetin, catechin, chlorogenic acid, anthocyanin) and Vitamin C. Quercetin is a flavonoid, aka a naturally occurring plant chemical with major anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Apples that are fresh and in season pack the best nutritional punch, and if you want to get the optimum benefits, eat your whole apples with the skin! While many children may be peel/skin-averse, it’s wise to teach them to enjoy it from a young age. The skin holds most of the flavonoids and fiber. Apple consumption has been linked to cardiovascular health.
Apple cider vinegar keeps the doctors away
Vinegar has been used homeopathically since antiquity. In fact, Hippocrates was said to have used vinegar as a treatment for wounds (circa 420 BC). The benefits of apple cider vinegar have helped revive its popularity in recent years a homeopathic treatment. Reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels are two major benefits. Thanks to its ability to reduce blood sugar levels, it also helps fight diabetes. Apple cider vinegar is high in acetic acid, which helps reduce inflammation and keeps blood sugar spikes at bay. While there is conflicting research behind these claims, many people have success incorporating apple cider vinegar into their weight loss program.
Like kombucha, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains “mother,” which are strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria. The “unfiltered” stuff has a slightly murky appearance.
Apple cider vinegar for safe, non-toxic cleaning
Its natural disinfectant properties make apple cider vinegar an excellent addition to your non-toxic home cleaners. You can also mix it with essential oils and water for an all-natural yoga mat cleaner! Apple cider vinegar is also an excellent way to safely preserve some foods
Crazy for apples? This versatile wonder fruit can be found in many other forms, such as apple sauce, apple butter (delicious when bought locally from an orchard), apples sliced on salads, apples in pies and compotes, apples with peanut butter (or any nut butter, really), apple cider, the list goes on….
Take advantage of apple season to get inspired and creative in the kitchen!