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An Apple A Day?

An Apple A Day?

Karen Haram | Houston Chronicle

Scholars may argue whether or not the apple was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (some contend it was a fig, others the pomegranate, citron or grape), but it’s hard to argue with the apple’s appeal.

Available year-round, moderately priced, nutritious and delicious, the apple is the chameleon of the food world, as comfortable in a homey pie as it is a sophisticated crepia or salad.

Worldwide, there are some 3,000 varieties of apples. There are 1,000 in the United States alone, with a typical supermarket carrying a dozen varieties. But not all apples are created equal, says Tom Burford of Lynchburg, Va., author of Apples: A Catalog of International Varieties, whose family has been involved in the apple industry since the 1700s.

“If I had the opportunity, I would throw about half of supermarket apples in the compost heap. They’re a poor excuse to be called apples,” he says. The Red Delicious apple flown in from other parts of the country, in particular, draws Burford’s scorn.

“Because of the variety and how they are grown, they are immature and do not have a flavor. My thrust is to educate the public to eat with their mouth and not their eyes. Those apples may be big and beautiful but they’re tasteless.”

Burford declines to single out other supermarket apples for exclusion, instead pointing out those he prefers. For Texans, those include the Ginger Gold, Pink Lady, Mutsu (also known as Crispin), Golden Delicious and locally produced Galas, Fujis and Summer Rambos. In the winter months, Burford likes Winesap apples.

He recommends shoppers try several apples, such as the Golden Delicious (a sweet apple), the Winesap and the Mutsu (a tart apple) to discover their flavor preference.

“If you’re fortunate, you’ll like both sweet and tart,” he says.

For cooking, Burford recommends using a mix of apples. Golden Delicious apples will cook to pieces or froth; the Winesap, Granny Smith and Pink Lady tend to hold their shape.

“If you use some of each, you will have a wonderful mass of apple slices coated with applesauce.”