They say that one a day keeps the doctor away.

This snazzy marketing message was meant to urge the public to eat apples for health, though the real message behind it was to promote an effort to eat apples, rather than drink them. This adage was coined during Prohibition in order to convert apples from a drink to a food. The typical method of consuming apples back then was in the form of alcoholic cider, apple jack, or apple brandy.

However you choose to consume this pomaceous produce, just make sure that you do. In New England, fall is the time of year to eat local apples (and of course enjoy cider). They are fresh, crunchy and the perfect snack for both satiation and health.

With all of their nutrients, this fruit is definitely the apple of my eye. Consider that eating one medium-sized apple will provide 15 per cent of your recommended daily fiber, plus vitamin C, flavenoids and antioxidants. My recommendation is not full of hot air, though the apple is full of lots of air. About 25 per cent of an apple’s volume is air, without which bobbing for apples would not be possible.

We have many apple growers to thank for the profusion of apple varieties. Apples are heterozygous, which in their case means that their seeds don’t “grow true.” Fruit produced from the seeds of agiven tree are not necessarily similar to the fruit of the parent tree. Therefore, in this case,the apple does fall far from the tree. It is for that reason that most apple trees are grafted. Grafting is when a desirable plant is attached to the root stock of another in order to produce fruit from the preferred variety.

Because of this, there has historically been a great diversity of apple varieties. Though there are thousands of types, some still reign supreme, but many, many more were lost due to their bitterness or undesirability. Henry David Thoreau described one such fruit failure as “sour enough to set a squirrel’s teeth on edge and make a jay scream.” That truly sounds like one bad apple that had the potential to spoil the whole bunch!

Today, very few apple varieties corner the marketplace. Of the 55 million or so tons of apples that are grown worldwide, only about 15 types account for 90 per cent of apple production. In the top five, you will find red and golden delicious, galas, fujis, and granny smiths. Having eaten a red delicious, it is obvious to me that these apples may have been successful because of reasons beyond their flavor. My advice is always to seek out the more uncommon cultivars for a true culinary experience.

Although Ralph Waldo Emerson called apples “the American Fruit,” they initially hailed from faraway lands. Originally found in central Asia, apples have been naturalized throughout the world. They were brought to America by colonists, but their ubiquity might have been credited to one John Chapman. A more familiar name, Johnny Appleseed, was given to him as the result of his efforts to spread the apple’s seed far and wide.

Today, most of the U.S. apples (60 per cent) come from Washington state. Massachusetts has some great apples, but we don’t even make the top five. The other large producing states are New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California. We don’t make a dent in worldwide production, though. The U.S. lags far behind China, which is the largest pomme producer worldwide, growing more than 30 per cent of all of the earth’s apples.

The infusion of imported apples may upset the economist’s apple cart. With the local food movement gaining ground, we can only hope that there will be more local apples in our future — an idea that isn’t just pie in the sky thinking.


Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown.