Apples have long been a fruit tied closely to the coming of fall. In Michigan, droves of people (local foodies or not) flock to the apple orchards come fall for fresh pressed apple cider – making the apple orchard one of the most common ways for Michiganders to connect with their local agriculture scene. Although apples can be found quite easily at your local supermarkets year-round, none are quite as incredible as local apples ripened right on the tree.
The Apple Industry
According to the US Business Insider in 2009, 71 million tons of apples were produced worldwide for a total of $30 billion, falling just $2 billion short of (the computer company) Apple’s annual revenue. The United States is second in apple cultivation after China, which produces almost half of the world’s total.
Within the US, Washington State remains the largest producer of apples with more than 60% of all the apples sold commercially! Every single one of the 10-12 billion apples harvested in Washington each year is handpicked, so it is no surprise that about 35,000 to 45,000 apple pickers are employed during the peak of harvest.
Despite the fact that Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman omitted the state in his apple-growing excursions throughout the Midwest, Michigan has become the second-largest apple producer in the nation. The 9.2 million apple trees in Michigan cover about 36,500 acres, and average $700-$900 million in annual economic contribution, as reported by the Michigan Apple Committee. Family apple orchards remain predominant in Michigan, where 65% of orchards have fewer than 200 acres in apples.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!
Its no wonder apples are one of the most widely cultivated fruits in the world, as they provide a range of health benefits to their consumers:
- Raise good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, and contribute to weight loss.
- Can help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
- Help lower your risk of developing heart disease.
- Enhance the body’s ability to protect from colon, prostate, and lung cancer.
- Improve lung, heart, and brain health—even lessening symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
The average US consumer only eats about one apple per week. While eating a fresh apple is always good for you, to get the full nutritional benefits you should eat at least one apple every day, hence the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”
Make Something with Apples!
While fresh apples are great right on the core, there are plenty of other ways you can get in your apple-a-day! Apples, like most fruits, are quite versatile in their culinary uses. While often eaten raw, dried, candied, or chopped up in a salad, apples can also be utilized in preparing many different foods and baking breads and treats.
If you’re looking for an apple challenge, try making these Cardamom and Brown Butter Apple Cakes. The almond and oat flours combined with browned butter make for an incredible nutty flavor. Before making these, stop by your local orchard or farmers market and look for some small apples that you can slice for the perfect apple topping to your little cakes. Here in northern Michigan a few farmers grow the variety known as chestnut apples, which are the perfect size. That said, plenty of farmers have smaller apples of all varieties!
For when you want an apple treat packed with fiber and protein, here is a quick and easy way to prepare a healthy, tasty snack:
- Spread one side of sliced apple with almond butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Dip the apple slices into granola to cover the almond butter.
Use sweet Delicious, tart Granny Smith, tangy Fuji or your favorite variety of apple; in seconds you’ll have a satisfying snack or dessert.
Happy Apple Season Everyone!