Perhaps the most commonly consumed fruit in America is the apple, with many studies suggesting that very fact. Although the US is responsible for only 7.5 percent of the world’s apple production, the apple holds a fundamental cultural grip over the heart of Americans. From Fuji to Braeburn, the over 7,500 varieties of the tree fruit – and the delicious dishes that can be made with them – make for a sweet adventure for anyone willing to take the journey.

Apple History and Culture

You might remember the apple as playing the lead role of “the forbidden fruit” in stories about Adam and Eve, but that’s not this tasty tree-fruit’s only claim to fame. Alexander the Great has been credited with finding the dwarf apple in Kazakhstan in 328 BCE, and according to mythology, apples provided Norse gods with eternal youth and fertility. The apple was considered sacred to the Greek Goddess Aphrodite, and to toss an apple at someone symbolized your love for that person; likewise, catching the apple was emblematic of acceptance of that person’s love.

Apples were brought to North America in the 17th century by colonists, and the first apple orchard in America was said to be near Boston in 1625. Washington state developed irrigation methods early in the 20th century that helped make the fruit industry what it is today. Farmers regularly stored their apples in frost-proof cellars for personal use or sale during the winter, but today controlled atmosphere storage is the preferred method of keeping apples fresh. The process cycles air through facilities with high humidity and low oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. This process keeps the apples fresh for travel.

Apple Health Benefits

Nearly everyone has heard the proverb, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but is it a true statement? According to a 2011 study by the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging at Florida State University, apples work magic against bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol and contributing to weight loss. Researchers involved in the study suggest that apple pectin – a white substance underneath the skin of the apple – binds to cholesterol in the stomach and ferries it out of the body. Eating only two and a half ounces per day can lower bad cholesterol by 23 percent while boosting good cholesterol by 3 to 4 percent, which would be considered spectacular results even with cholesterol-lowering drug use.

On top of this, risks of colon, prostate, and lung cancer drop thanks to antioxidants. While apples contain relatively less vitamin C and fiber than most fruits and vegetables, the fiber helps the pectin lower cholesterol by guarding against reabsorption.

A 2008 study by Dr. Victor Fulgoni analyzed adult consumption habits from a 1999 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that apple eaters have a 27 percent decreased likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical disorders that augments the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But that’s not the only benefit: The findings also suggested that apple consumers have a 30 percent lower likelihood of elevated diastolic blood pressure, a 36 percent lower likelihood of elevated systolic blood pressure, and a 21 percent reduced risk of increases in waist circumference.

“We found that adults who eat apples and apple products have smaller waistlines that indicate less abdominal fat, lower blood pressure and a reduced risk for developing what is known as metabolic syndrome,” Fulgoni said in a statement.

Eating More Apples

What’s more American than apple pie? Baseball, maybe, but baseballs aren’t exactly appetizing. The appeal to most apples is that they are easy to take around as a snack, don’t require much preparation, and taste good either cold or at room temperature. Biting into a fresh, crunchy golden delicious speaks for itself, but what other dishes can be made with the fruit?

As is the case with most foods, if people can find a way to enhance the natural flavor and compliment it with other spices, it makes the experience that much more enjoyable. Common uses for apples in regard to cooking usually have to do with dessert. Apple-granola crisp, caramel apples, and of course traditional apple pie are all regular parts of American cuisine, but apples are also found in several other courses like pork tenderloin, or cut into salads. Any way you slice them, it seems an apple a day will not only keep the doctor away, but satisfy your sweet tooth.

How about some dishes involving apples that are favorites of yours? Who has a fantastic dish or preparation for apples they are willing to share? Leave a comment and let us know how you typically prepare your bushels of apples!