One Question Quiz
Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

KaiApril 8, 2023

Ingredient of the week: Apples

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Apples hold a special place in mythology, art history, religious iconography… and our fruit bowls. Make the most of them while they’re in season.

They’re the most classic and biblical of fruit, the staple of the fruit bowl, the dependable lunchbox year-rounder – though actually an autumnal baby at heart. Apples are so common that until the 17th century, the word “apple” was used as a term to refer to all fruit and nuts. In Middle English, bananas were referred to as the “appel of paradis”. 

Apples likely originated in Central Asia, and have been domesticated for up to 10,000 years. Today, there are more than 7,500 cultivated varieties of apples, with different levels of acidity, sweetness, firmness, colour, size and resistance to disease. You really have your pick of the bunch when it comes to this fruit bowl staple.

Despite being common, apples have their own intrigue and complexity. If you pluck a seed from a delicious apple and use that seed to grow a tree, its fruit will be nothing like its parent apple. Apples are “extreme heterozygotes”, which means parents produce very unalike children, rather than replicating themselves in their offspring. You could grow 10 apple trees from the seeds of a single (very seedy) apple, and they would all produce very different kinds of fruit.

Instead of using seedlings to grow new apple trees, growers use grafting, an asexual method of reproduction where you physically combine two plants. Basically, you take a scion (a cut, fruiting branch, which determines the kind of fruit) from one tree, and attach it to the rootstock (the root system and lower part of the plant, which determines fruit yield, tree size, and disease resistance) of another tree. 

The two elements then grow together as a single tree, with the traits of both plants. You can even graft multiple fruiting branches from different types of apple trees to the same rootstock, producing a beautiful Frankenstein’s monster of apple variation. 

A note on apple myths: while we’ve all been told that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, really, it doesn’t. Other than containing moderate amounts of fibre (2.4g per 100g), apples aren’t particularly nutritious. Sorry. On another note, that proverb comes from 19th-century Wales, and was originally: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” You’re welcome. 

Fallen apples lie on a patch of grass.
Photo: Getty Images

Where to find apples

This almost sounds like a trick question, since you can find apples absolutely everywhere – but humour me with a little supermarket price comparison. To put these prices in perspective, you’re paying about a dollar for an apple when the price is $5/kg.

New World Mt Roskill has eight different varieties of apples available, but to keep things under control, I’m just looking at the cheapest and priciest. Royal Gala is on the affordable end at $3.99/kg, and my favourite kind of eating apple, Ambrosia, is $5.99/kg.

Countdown has a similar variety of apples, although some are more pricey; Royal Galas are $4.49/kg, and Ambrosias are an entire dollar more expensive, at $6.99/kg. They also sell Simply Red apples at $4/kg.

Pak’nSave doesn’t have as many options, especially for loose apples, but they make up for it as their Royal Galas are only $1.99/kg. Supie’s Royal Galas are similarly well-priced, at $1.39 for three, and if you’re an Ambrosia devotee like myself, you can get a 1.5kg bag for $6.49. Supie also stocks lemonade apples at $2 for three, which is fun.

How to make apples terrible

Other than taking a bite from a floury apple (the worst) or leaving your apple for too long (a few days in the fruit bowl, about two weeks in the fridge), you could make your apple experience very bad by chowing down on a big serving of apple seeds. Apple seeds house a small amount of amygdalin, which contains cyanide – a poison that various murderers have laced into medication, food, and protein shakes to kill their victims. 

The associated risk seems relatively nominal though; the US Hazardous Substances Data Bank has zero records of apple seed-related poisoning to date. My granny used to eat apple seeds quite casually, probably as an act of rebellion, and it never seemed to get her into trouble. Maybe rather than being terrible, eating a few apple seeds will simply make you feel invincible. 

A cardboard box filled with apples. On the box it reads, 'produce of New Zealand'.
Image: Getty Images

How to make apples amazing

Some apples are perfect just the way they are – sweet, slightly tart, crunchy, crisp, and juicy. Others could do with some oven-therapy. 

Spiced apple cake, apple turnovers, apple pie, apple purée, apple dumplings, apple crumble, apple cider, apple jam, apple-containing chutneys – if you have an overwhelming apple supply, there’s a lot you can do about it. For apple crumble, turnovers, and pie, I’ll peel and slice the apples (about six apples for four big servings), then pop the slices in a pot with a tablespoon of butter, a sprinkle of sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon. Cook together for about 10 or 15 minutes, until the apples are tender, then do your crumble or pastry thing. 

Grated apple is also great in coleslaws, or finely slice apple and add it to a spinach and walnut salad. Apples also pair beautifully with pork, so you can add grated apple to pork meatballs or sausage rolls, or cook sliced apples with a pork roast or stew.

And, since it’s getting chilly, I’ll also give you an apple porridge recommendation that’s like a creamy, spiced, hot apple breakfast pudding. For two servings, grate one apple. Put the grated apple in a small pot, along with half a cup of oats, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon, a cup of milk, and enough water to make the oats slosh around the pot quite happily – the amount of water depends on how firm or soupy you like your porridge. 

Bring the oats to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about eight minutes or until done to your personal porridge preferences. Serve into two bowls and if you like, drizzle with a tiny bit of cream and sprinkle with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Perfect.

Wyoming Paul is the co-founder of Grossr, and runs a weekly meal plan that connects to online supermarket shopping.

Read all the previous Ingredients of the Week here.

Keep going!