Eating wild apples

Fall is the time to forage for wild apples in Michigan

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I’m sure almost everyone has heard this anecdote before, but did you know that the benefits of eating apples have been touted for over 5000 years? Evidence of this has been found in ancient Egypt, where pharaohs were often buried with mummified apples, perhaps to nourish them beyond the grave. 

Apples are high in phytonutrients, the compounds in plants that have health-promoting properties including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and liver-health-promoting activities. They are also high in soluble fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Any apple will have both fiber and phytonutrients, but not all apples are created equally. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) research shows that wild varieties of apples are vastly more nutritious than cultivated varieties (like you get in a grocery store). In fact, wild apples, depending on the variety, have up to 475 times more phytonutrients than many cultivated varieties. It is also true that the more sun an apple receives, the more phytonutrients it will contain, so try to pick apples from the top and outside branches. Don’t forget to eat the skins too. Many people peel their apples because they don’t like the texture of the apple skin, but the skins can add 50 percent more nutrients than an apple without the skin. 

Where can you find wild apples? Just about anywhere, but trees often inhabit roadsides, and old abandoned fields. Wild apples come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Don’t forget about crabapples as well. Although “crabapples” are the same genus of apple as any other (the name simply implies a size difference), they are often discounted because of their tartness. All apples get sweeter after a frost, and crabapples make a great cooking apple. According to Michigan State University Extension wild apples are best gathered from the end of August through November in Michigan, so get out there and find some wild apples, and enjoy getting your phytonutrients from this delicious fruit.

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