By Abigail Martin
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We’ve all heard this childhood saying, trying to convince us that if we eat our apples, we will avoid a trip to the doctor’s office. This always got me thinking, what’s so special about an apple, anyway?
In many aspects, apples are a unique fruit. According to the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, apples are one of the best sources of pectin, a type of fiber. Research indicates pectin limits the cholesterol the body absorbs and may be an important link to preventing heart disease. In addition to pectin, apples are packed full of 10 vitamins and minerals that help prevent infections, aid growth, are important for eyesight and help digestion. That’s quite an impressive list for a fruit that is, on average, 3 to 7 ounces. And with only about 80 calories, an apple is perfect to fill you up, not out.
Here in Wisconsin, we have been growing and enjoying apples since the early 1800s. Many of our state’s first settlers had an orchard on their homestead to provide fruit for the family. Between 1830 and 1850, commercial apple orchards were first planted. Since then, Wisconsin has been a producer of some of the best commercially grown apples in the world due to an ideal growing climate, unique varieties and high-quality standards. Commercial orchards are now found in 57 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, with the most prominent growing regions in southwest Wisconsin, the Door County area and Bayfield County.
As summer winds down and the cool autumn breeze returns, the apple harvest in Wisconsin will be in full swing. In 2017, Wisconsin growers harvested 49 million pounds of apples from 4,000 acres. Harvest season runs from mid-August to late-October as different apple varieties ripen at various times. Varieties ready in early September include McIntosh, Gala and Honeycrisp. All three of these varieties are great for eating fresh!
Wisconsin apples can be enjoyed in so many ways. Whether you prefer red, green, yellow or a shade in between, fresh apples are a prefect on-the-go snack. Store apples in plastic bags in the refrigerator to help them last longer.
The Wisconsin Farmers Market Association shares that apples at room temperature ripen six to 10 times faster. One of my favorite ways to enjoy apples is as apple cider! Typically, apple cider is thought of as a fall drink, enjoyed warm on a crisp night. But me? I could drink apple cider all year-round! Jams, jellies, syrups and, of course, apple pies are also perfect for enjoying Wisconsin apples long past harvest season.
This season, pick your apples up at a local farmers market, a roadside stand or even fresh from the tree. Visit your local apple orchard for fresh picking and to sample different varieties grown in Wisconsin.
Learn more about Wisconsin’s apple history, and how growers in our state are caring for their land to ensure it is protected for generations to come. Head to the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association’s website for information on orchards and apple events near you.
Martin is the 72nd Alice in Dairyland.