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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010 06:09 pm

It’s apple-picking time!

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What tastes better on a cool fall day than an apple plucked right off the tree? Well, maybe a fresh apple pie, homemade applesauce, or apple butter. This month the fruit is ripening in backyards and commercial pick-your-own orchards.

Besides tasting good, apples are also good for you. They’re fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free.  A medium-sized apple has about 80 calories and 5 grams of dietary fiber. Local orchards offer several varieties, including: Braeburn, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Mutsu, Red Delicious, Suncrisp and Winesap.

Ripe apples should be easy to pick with the stems attached. Roll or twist the apple so its stem separates from the tree. Handle fruits carefully to avoid bruising. With refrigeration, firm, unbruised apples will keep from several weeks to several months.

A few tips for picking apples: Do not pick up apples from the ground, watch out for yellowjackets and wear clothes that you can get dirty. Call ahead to confirm the orchard’s hours of operation and varieties currently available.
You'll need about two pounds of apples to make one 9-inch pie.

To learn more about apple varieties, recipes, festivals, growing, and storage, visit the University of Illinois Extension’s “Apples & More” at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/apples/ .

It’s a fact—local produce is fresher, more nutritious, and better-tasting than food picked before it’s ripe and shipped long distances. Check out one of the local apple orchards or visit a vendor at one of the farmers markets. 

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