Fall is here and that means Michigan’s largest and most valuable fruit crop—the apple—is ripe and ready to tantalize your taste buds.
Michigan is the nation’s third largest producer of apples, producing an average of 18 million bushels each year. About 37,000 acres are used for apple production, with the majority of farms covering less than 200 acres, and 950 apple growers living and working in regions near Lake Michigan and along the western part of the state.
Michigan also plays a vital role in processed apples. About 60 percent of Michigan’s apples are processed into another product such as pie filling, applesauce, jellies, butter, juice, cider and vinegar. We are also the leading producer of slices for commercially-prepared apple pie.
Longtime favorite varieties still dominate Michigan’s orchards. The most prevalent variety remains the Red Delicious, followed closely by the Golden Delicious. The Gala is rapidly gaining on tradition, however. The Honeycrisp variety is continually growing in popularity. Look for it in September and October, and enjoy it while you can, as it will most likely be gone by mid-November! A growing number of Honeycrisp tree plantings still aren’t in pace with its popularity among consumers! Honeycrisp has a crisp, juicy bite and a sweet flavor. They are best for fresh eating and also a great addition to salads.
How to store
Apples bruise easily so handle them gently. Refrigerate in the crisper section; cool air helps maintain quality. Store apples in a ventilated bag away from foods with strong odors
Everyone knows Michigan Apples taste great, but they also keep you healthy and strong. Apples are a naturally fat-free, saturated fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free food, and are an excellent source of fiber. Loaded with powerful flavonoids and antioxidants, they’re perfect for every diet and every part of your body.
The Michigan Apples website (www.michiganapples.com) gives tips on which apples work best in baking and cooking, and has some great recipes submitted by Michigan residents. Try the one on this page by Mary Gardner, of Cedar Springs, who was runner-up in the 2011 recipe contest.