We’ve officially reached peak apple (and apple-picking for Instagram) season, and so to keep up with the spirit of the times, we thought it’d be good to break down a few tried and true apple facts and stats.
Believed to have originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, apple seeds were first brought over to North America in the 1600s, not for sustenance, but in order to make cider according to History.com. According to the U.S. Apple Association, there are more than 100 apple varieties grown commercially in the U.S., and of that statistic, only 15 types of apples account for 90% percent of apple production, although one California based nutritionist says there are far more than that.
“Apple experts will tell you that there are over 4,000 varieties that exist right now out of the original 17,000 historically recorded,” Cat Dillon, director of nutrition at VeraVia, Park Hyatt Aviara, said. “Sadly, much of the beneficial nutrition has been bred out of the more tart, traditional types for our more contemporary, sweeter varieties.”
While apples come in a multitude of shades, sizes, and varieties ranging from ruby red to neon green, Dillion says a good rule of thumb when it comes to nutrition is the more colorful the apple, the more phytonutrients the apple will tend to have. “The most nutritious apple will show pigment on all sides,” Dillon explained. “If only one side of a red apple is exposed to direct sunlight, the fruit will appear two-toned. Eating the sunny side can give you twice as many nutrients as the shady side.”
At their core, the color of the apple can determine the nutritional benefits, including overall fiber content, antioxidants, and vitamin C levels.
“Definitely eat the skins, as they have a much bigger concentration of disease-fighting polyphenols,” Dillion said. “Polyphenols help support bacterial balance in your lower digestive tract and your gut bacteria more than anything helps determine the health of your immune system. Apples grown conventionally have more pesticides than any other crop! Another reason to always buy organic. ”
Originally called Hawkeye, Red Delicious are most identifiable by their candy apple red heart-shaped exterior. Not only are Red Delicious a great overall apple choice for daily consumption due to their sweetness and overall mild flavor, they used to be “America’s favorite apple” variety until Gala apples swooped in to take the top spot this year, according to the U.S. Apple Association.
The most common variety of green apples, Granny Smith apples are the tartest and most distinguishable apples of the bunch. They are a great option to cook with due to their their firmness and flavor when cooking them down in the oven. Granny Smiths are also believed to have originated in Australia and are one of the most nutritious of all apple varieties.
Similar in taste and texture to Red Delicious, Golden or Yellow Delicious apples are yellow-gold in appearance and have the same mild to sweet taste. Grown all around the world, these are a good choice to dress up a salad or bake in the oven. When it comes to the nutrient department, however golden delicious are somewhat lacking.
Believed to have originated in New Zealand in the 1930s, Gala apples have quietly climbed the ranks to become the America’s sweetheart of the apple clan. Galas are easily distinguishable for their almost pinkish hue, a cross between golden and red. They are also sweet and pack just the right amount of punch in the tart department. High in phytonutrients, Galas are another great all-around snacking and cooking apple.
Another type of apple on the rise, Honeycrisps are quietly gaining in popularity according to the U.S. Apple Association. Honeycrisps, a hybrid apple that was actually developed by the University of Minnesota’s agriculture department program in the ‘90s, these are one of the most expensive if not delicious apple varieties in the market today.
Pretty in pink, Fuji apples are a cross between Red Delicious and Old Virginia Ralls Genet and were developed by apple growers in Japan in the 1930s. Today they remain in one of the top five most popular apple varieties.