An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the saying goes for these red/green round fruits. Surprising when you realise bar a moderate amount of fibre they are not technically highly nutritious and contain a lot of the sugar fructose.
Fruit Origins & Varieties
Apple: Malus pumila. family Rosaceae (commonly but erroneously called Malus domestica)
Just so we’re clear the entire apple (including the core and the flesh surrounding the core) is considered a fruit as are some common garden "vegetables" that are actually fruit, these include cucumbers, squash, peppers, and tomatoes. Well I’m glad we’ve cleared that up!
Humans have grown apples for at least three thousand years; cultivation of this fruit most likely began on the forested flanks of the Tian Shan mountains in south-western China before reaching other parts of the world.
During the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II who lived in the 13th century BCE (Before Common Era), several varieties were already being grown in the Nile Delta.
Slowly the numbers of different varieties (or cultivars) have increased over the years. The Roman author Pliny the Elder lists thirty-seven, by 1640 an English horticulturist recorded sixty but by 1670 that had risen to ninety-two. In 1866 the list had reached 643 known cultivars. Today there are at least 7,500 distinguishable apple varieties – with new one’s being developed every year.
Growing tips & Harvesting
All fruit trees are grafted onto a different rootstock - this is because if grown from its own pip (seed) the variety doesn’t come true as the insect pollinator (usually a Honey Bee) will bring pollen from another variety and so mixes up the genes.
Today we have the choice of growing apples as a full size tree or down to a pot plant. This is due to the work of two main UK research stations in Malham and Merton who developed a range of rootstocks that controls the growth of the chosen cultivar. The MM106 rootstock is probably the one most used worldwide.
To help the apple blossom cluster of between 4 to 8 flowers to ‘set’ more fruit they need to receive pollen from another apple trees blossom. Over the years it’s been worked out that apple varieties produce blossom in distinct timing groups, A (early) to F or 1 to 7 - so making it relatively easy to choose a pollination partner for your tree.
With such a wide choice of apple varieties available today why not grow ones that you can’t find in the shops.
Storing & Preparation
Apples can be stored for months, with some cultivars keeping for well over a year if wrapped in paper and kept somewhere cool and frost-free. However be careful where you store them. If stored near potatoes they lose their flavour and give the potatoes a bitter flavour (along with any carrots in the vicinity!). After washing eating apples can be consumed as they are but cooking apples need some heat!
My favourite Recipes
Moist vegan apple cake
Easy to whip up on these autumnal evenings, this deliciously moist cake is an absolute must for putting those seasonal scrumpings to good use. We love it here in the Skip Garden Kitchen.
1 large sized apple
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp nutmeg powder
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp of vanilla extract
¼ cup oil
¾ cup date syrup
1 cup water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180 celsius.
Peel, core and chop the apple into lovely little chunks.
Grab the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking powder, and sift them into a bowl. Add the little chunks of apple and mix the bowl by hand.
Add the date syrup to the bowl and give it a good mix.
Pop in the cup of water, the oil and the vanilla extract. Stir the mixture well so as to ensure it has a nice uniform consistency.
Finally, add the lemon juice and give a quick stir.
Take the mixture and pour it into an oil-brushed cake tin. ive the tin a little bit of a shake to make sure the bubbles pop up to the surface.
Put the tin into the oven for 45-50 mins till done.
Once done slide the cake out of the tin and place on a rack to cool. Enjoy!
From Sive's Kitchen (https://siveskitchen.wordpress.com)
Chestnut, apple and thyme stuffed endives
Ingredients – makes 3-4
2 cooking apples
200g steamed chestnuts
few sprigs thyme
little sunflower oil or butter
salt and pepper
Pull the thyme leave off the stalks.
Pull the biggest and best leaves off the endive and reserve. Roughly chop the rest of the endive.
Warm a frying pan on medium heat, add a little (e.g. 10ml) butter or sunflower oil.
Fry the endives, until any released liquid is evaporated.
Sprinkle a little demerara across the frying pan – just a light sprinkle - less than a teaspoon. Add the brandy – the sugar should dissolve quickly. Cook for a minute or until starting to caramelise.
Peel and dice the apples. Work quickly to avoid oxidization.
Put apples and thyme leaves into pan and leave to cook for a minute or two until browning on the bottom, then stir/flip and leave to brown again for a minute.
Add the chestnuts, roughly crumbling them into the apples.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Fill 4 of the reserved endive leaves with the apple chestnut stuffing, and top with another leaf to form a parcel. Wrap around with baking parchment to hold together and place on a baking tray. These can be kept aside for a few hours if necessary.
To finish, place the baking tray of endive parcels in the oven on 180C for about 15-20 minutes, or until browning on the outside and piping hot throughout.
At Skip Garden we like to serve this with truffled pumpkin and cauliflower purees. This forms part of our Christmas dinner this year. See more info and how to book here.
Apples are more reliable than a cup of coffee to keep you awake, due to their sugar content. Now I've heard this more than once so it must be true!