The fruit of man

by Brittany Grace

Time to release yourself from the artificial chill of air conditioning, open your windows, and take your boots out of hibernation. It’s fall.

Also known as: apple season!

I cannot think of any other fruit that has as much variety within its own kind.

Can you?

There are many, many varieties of apples: the sweet, the tart, the crisp, the soft, and an array of combinations in between.

It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits in the world. Apples have to cross pollinate to produce fruit – they are heterozygous, so their copied chromosomes are not identical. Thus, an offspring of an apple can differ greatly from its parent apple.

This year, the Golden Delicious variety of apple was completely decoded. It has about 57,000 genes. This is the highest number of any plant genome studied so far, and almost twice as many genes as the human genome, which has about 30,000. Cracking the apple genome means scientists may be able to figure out how to make apple farming more sustainable. It will be interesting to see if this happens, as scientists now have access to genes that are tied to everything from disease resistance to aroma. Click here for more apple genome information.

Aristotle received samples of dwarf apple trees from his student, Alexander the Great, as a gift. Greek mythology and folklore frequently used the word “apple” to describe any fruit they found ambiguous. Apples illustrate sin to most Christians, who say it was an apple that Eve used to tempt Adam. Alas, the species name Malus Domesticus refers to the apple; Malus also means “evils” in Latin.

It’s illuminating to realize a fruit we may consider as pedestrian has such an extravagant history.

When I was growing up, my mom would slice up pieces of  red apple, sprinkle them with cinnamon, and put them in a plastic bag for me to have as dessert after my lunch. Envy for a more “normal” dessert like a Swiss Cake Roll was momentary: I remember times when my friend Leah would implore me to trade her factory-processed Little Debbie for my crispy, cinnamon-laden apples, and I would realize my mom was doing me a favor.

Fast-forward into the future: I still eat apples for dessert. I also often eat them in my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

While apples are at their peak, I like to find as many ways as possible to enjoy them in their natural state, with the integrity of the apple skin and flesh staying in tact. Thus, a seasonal salad that incorporates newly picked apples is a perfect beginning to a meal, if not a lovely meal in itself. Fennel, with its licorice-like taste profile, add dimension to this salad of classic fall flavors apple and spice.

Crisp Autumn salad (apples, fennel and spiced pecans)

5-6 apples of various textures and colors; slice into thin, 1/2 inch thick slices, lengthwise

1 lb fresh pecans; chopped, or 1/2 lb chopped and 1/2 lb left whole

1 fennel bulb, finely sliced

For dressing:

1 lime

1 lemon

Olive oil

S & P

Whisk all ingredients together; add S & P to taste.

For  nuts:

1 egg white

sprinkle of each: fresh nutmeg, ground cloves, cayenne pepper

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons REAL vanilla extract – real vanilla extract never leaves a metallic aftertaste and will preserve the tasty quality of your treats!

Whisk egg white until frothy. Then, add spice mixture, and stir until fully incorporated. Add about 1 pound of pecans (or nuts of your choosing) and stir gently until they are evenly coated. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet – line with parchment for easy clean up – and bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees.

Toss apple slices in a little of the dressing; place in bowl and refrigerate. Do the same with the fennel pieces, but leave separate. After at least 30 minutes, add the fennel to the apple, and sprinkle nuts on top. Add more citrus dressing if desired. Enjoy!

Pimento cheese, the old-fashioned way: coming soon

Hint: after this, you’ll be making your own mayo and roasting your own peppers. Who needs jars of Duke’s or neon orange pimentos?!