Food Star of the Week

This week’s Food Star is near and dear to my heart – the Apple!

Why do I love the apple so much? Well, for starters, apples are delicious. A ripe apple will taste sweet or tart and can vary in color from deep red to bright green, depending upon the variety. There are about 2500 different apple varieties in the world, and approximately 100 different varieties are grown commercially in the US. Here are a few you may recognize:

Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, Jonathan, Honey Crisp, Pink Lady

With so many different apples to choose from, one might ask, how did all of these varieties come about? Well, as an example, let’s take the “Honey Crisp” apple – my favorite! The Honeycrisp apple was produced from a 1960 cross of the Macoun and Honeygold apples, as part of the University of Minnesota apple breeding program. Yes, apparently, there was a breeding program for apples! Actually, its not that uncommon that much of the produce we are accustomed to eating today is the result of what is called cross-hybridization. The act of hybridization is the cross breeding, so to speak, of plants of different varieties in order to produce a new plant with desirable traits from both parent varieties. Ever heard of a tangelo…the cross between an orange and a pomelo? (What’s a pomelo? Ha, different post, different day!) Less desirable traits also enter the combination, however, so hybridization is usually followed by several generations of selection (keep the good, throw out the bad). This allows “breeders” to discard undesirable plants, thus creating the “perfect” crop through generations of breeding. Interesting, no?
So, is eating a hybrid fruit or vegetable bad for your health? Hybridization occurs in nature because plants can cross-pollinate, so it is likely not harmful.  However, one thing to note, and we won’t go into it in detail, is that the seeds from hybrid plants do not produce an identical plant. Another brief note…if on a whim you decided to plant your own apple tree, or zucchini or tomato plant (which is a little more likely), and you see the word “heirloom”, this means that you are purchasing “pure” seeds that have not been hybridized.
Getting back to the question – will eating a hybrid have a negative impact on health? Many people have misconceptions about what exactly makes a hybrid fruit or vegetable. This is because, through some clever lobbying, marketing and propaganda,  the term “hybrid” has become confused with the term “GMO.” Let’s quickly clarify! GMO seeds, or those that have been genetically altered, are not naturally occurring. When a vegetable has been genetically modified, it means that the plant gene has been crossed with another gene in a laboratory in order to get the plant to develop a specific trait. Techniques such as cloning and protein engineering are used. For example, a soybean plant may be crossed with a pesticide in order to make it resistant to certain bugs. Or a peach may be crossed with a gene from a cold water fish in order to make it resistant to frost. To further, we have entered into an age in which genetic modification is BIG BUSINESS and much of what is found in processed food is as a result of GM ingredients. To sum it up (for now) GMO’s never occur in nature, whereas hybrids have naturally occurred throughout all of time. There is a big difference (different post, different day)!
Okay, sorry for getting off-track there a bit…let’s get back to apples! Apples have an amazing nutrient profile.  They are an excellent source of Vitamin A and C and also contain minerals such as Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium. Although apples, like most fruits, fall under the “carbohydrate” category, they are a solid source of fiber.  Eating foods high in fiber provide a number of health benefits and keep you feeling satiated. You know the ol’ saying…an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Well, there may be some truth to that!
One last caveat! Apples, unfortunately, fall in the “Dirty Dozen” list; a list which identifies the top 12 produce items which you should always attempt to purchase as organic over conventional. In 2010, more than 40 different pesticides were detected on apples. Fungus and insect threats prompt farmers to spray various chemicals on their orchards, so not surprisingly, pesticide residue is also found in apple juice and apple sauce. One more tip! Try to purchase when in season…during the fall months. Not only will you find a better price for organic apples during fall, but they will taste amazing and you can stock up for all of those flavorful apple holiday dishes!
Stay tuned for some upcoming apple recipes you and your family are sure to love!

9 thoughts on “Food Star of the Week

  1. I love to pack up the kiddos and visit the Apple Harvest Festival at Graves Mountain in Syria, VA. The festival is a blast and there is definitely something about eating an apple you picked yourself :)

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