465986931Everyone has that one pastime that reminds them of autumn. For me, its’ apple picking. There is nothing better than a crisp and clear fall day spent rambling through a beautiful Vermont orchard, picking apples and sipping on warm cider. So, let’s welcome fall with September’s harvest of the month – one of America’s favorite fruits (second only to bananas): apples!

Apple trees have their origins in central Asia and were brought to America in the 1600s by European settlers. Apples thrived in our temperate climate because they require a period of cold dormancy between crops in order to produce fruit. According to the USDA, by 1905 there were more than 14,000 varieties of apples cultivated in the United States! Of all of these, the only type of apple native to North America is the crap apple.

We’ve all heard the saying; “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Is there any truth to this old adage? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’! Although apples are often overlooked for more trendy super fruits, such as acai berries and pomegranates, they actually have a lot of nutrition to offer. Apples provide filling and cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, immunity-boosting vitamin C and a good amount of potassium for a relatively small amount of calories (about 95 for a medium apple).

In studies, apples shine for their nutrition benefits:

  • The well-known Nurse’s Health Study found that intake of apples was associated with reduced risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
  • Data analyzed from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study showed a 27 percent reduced risk of metabolic syndrome in those who had eaten an apple within the previous day.
  • Apple eaters were also found to have lower C-reactive protein levels, a marker of systemic inflammation in the body associated with increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  • Apples even contain an antioxidant called quercetin which helps to make oxygen more available in the lungs, potentially enhancing endurance and athletic performance.

Aside from being good for you, apples are fantastic to drink, eat raw and cook, or bake with. After all, what is fall without a homemade apple pie or crisp, sweet and creamy apple sauce, tangy apple cider, or a fresh and crunchy apple plucked right from the tree? For me, apples truly are the taste of fall.

But, this month’s recipe is new and interesting because it uses the harvest in a unique way that helps to bridge summer and fall with apples and pears adding a sweet crunch to a spicy salsa. Jalapenos, cumin, and cilantro make the traditional salsa base while the autumn fruits and cinnamon add a fun twist. Include this salsa in your next appetizer spread or use it to top bean and chicken enchiladas or crab cakes. You could even stir leftover salsa into cornbread batter and bake for a sweet and spicy upgrade. Use your imagination – you might be surprised by what you can create!

Visit the Vermont Harvest of the Month website for more information about apples including great recipes, book recommendations and a listing of Vermont orchards.

Spicy Apple and Pear Salsa

  • 2apples, diced
  • 2pears, diced
  • 2Tbsplemon juice
  • 1jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/2cupolive oil
  • 1tspcumin
  • 1tspcinnamon
  • 1tspsalt
  • 1/2bunch cilantro, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, combine the apples, pears and lemon juice. Toss to coat.
  2. Add the jalapeno, oil, spices and salt, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Stir in the cilantro, cover, and chill before serving.
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Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietician at The University of Vermont Medical Center. 

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