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From the Publisher’s Desk – Peeling back the layers on apples

By Keith Whitson

As a child, I heard about Eve taking a bite out of an apple and encouraging Adam to do the same. Whether it happened exactly that way or was actually even an apple, I don’t know. I do understand the temptation of an apple.

This time of year apples are hard to resist. After all, without the fruit, what would we celebrate this Friday and Saturday during the 39th Annual Unicoi County Apple Festival?

With an outer surface which can be polished to resemble  the paint of a brand new car, the apple catches our eye. It’s inner smell seems to exude through the outer skin protecting it.

We are lucky to live where we do and know the taste of a tree-ripened apple. Have you ever bought some during off seasons, only to be terribly disappointed? The look is there but the inner product is far from good This happens a lot in the winter when the fuit is picked too early and shipped from out of the country. There are probably some places, even within the U.S., that have never known the deliciousness of a freshly picked, fully-ripened apple.

Where I grew up on Spivey, there were many older apple trees, some varieties I never hear of anymore. Families who lived on the land before me started and grafted these trees, which gave them years of harvests. By my generation, the tree had seen its better years. Having not been pruned or cared for, the apples were small and spotted. However, they would often still have a wonderful taste.

There are still apple trees standing where homes were once nearby. Some of the trees have been totally secluded now with woodlands growing up all around them.

As a child, there was a sweet apple tree which was one of my favorites. It produced a little red apple that was sweeter than any I’ve found since.

This tree stood beside the road leading to fields and barns. The apples fell in the pathway of the tractor and would often get smashed if not picked up. I remember going out many times with a bucket and filling it full with those little apples. They were often bruised or cracked from the impact of the fall onto the hard road. But, the apples picked up in the bucket were perfect for feeding two hogs, which we usually kept until cold weather slaughter.

Whether you bake apples in a pie or cake or just eat them as is, there is nothing any better. Particular apples have certain uses they are better for. Some are good to bake with, some for apple butter and some just to eat. Everyone seems to have their own favorite.

Some facts I found show that red delicious is the most popular and most produced apple in the U.S. This is followed by golden delicious. With that being said, can you guess which apple is the only one native to North America? Believe it or not, it is the crabapple.

Apples are believed to have originated in an area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Archaeologists have evidence of people eating apples as far back as 6500 B.C.

China produces more apples than any other country. What’s up with China? Enough already. Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and California are the top five apple-producing states in the U.S.

This would have proven to be a let down to Johnny Appleseed. Born in 1774, Johnny planted apple seeds in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, none of the states listed as top producers.

In all, 36 states produce apples commercially. Four states even claim it as their official state fruit – Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California.

So what does the U.S. do with all of those apples? Half of the crop is turned into apple products like applesauce and apple juice. There are about 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the U.S. That seems like a lot compared to what we find at produce stands or grocery stores. However, there are nearly 8,000 varieties of apples world wide.

So, is the old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away true? From what I found, apples are very healthy. They contain zero grams of fat or sodium. At four grams per average size apple, they are a great source of fiber. Quercetin is found only in the apple skin. The skin also contains more antioxidants and fiber than the flesh.

Thanks to their high levels of boron, apples can help improve your memory, mental alertness, and electrical activity of the brain. While not high in calcium, their boron content helps strengthen bones. The soluble fiber found in apples is called pectin and can help lower cholesterol levels. Apples may help boost estrogen levels in menopausal women. It is also believed that the more apples a person eats, the lower his or her risk of developing lung cancer.

Statistics indicate we fail on the saying concerning an apple a day. The average person eats 65 apples per year, which is a little better than one per week.

Apple varieties range in size from a pea to the size of a small pumpkin. The largest apple ever picked was 3 pounds 2 ounces. I think we can safely say apple are one thing were size doesn’t matter. It is more about taste and usage.

Apple trees don’t bear their first fruit until they are four or five years old. An average-sized apple tree can produce enough apples to fill 20 boxes that weigh 42 pounds each. That is hard to believe since they are 25 percent air. That is why they float in water.

I also learned that apples are a member of the rose family. What? I think the apple certainly fell far from that tree.

Come out this Friday and Saturday and enjoy a tribute to the apple with a variety of flavors to tempt your appetite.