Everything and the Kitchen Shrink: The apple of my pie

A bumper crop of beauties has made its fall arrival in the supermarket produce aisles - the Fujis, Mutsus, Cortlands and other power pommes. The apple invasion inspired me to make a home-baked apple pie, filling my kitchen with a warm cinnamon aroma. No surprise, my sweet-tooths polished off the pie at one sitting as we giggled over apple jokes and trivia.

In the beginning, this forbidden fruit had tempted Adam and Eve and earned them a "time out" from the Garden of Eden. Ancient scriptures have it that Adam's punishment for tasting the apple was that a piece of the core lodged in his craw which is how the lump in the front of men's necks became known as "Adam's Apple."

The apple was first domesticated in Asia Minor before the time of Christ, spread to Greece by 300 B.C. and became a favorite snack for the ancient Romans. The apple's healthful properties were recognized by Greek physicians like Hippocrates, who in 200 A.D. prescribed sweet apples for indigestion and sour ones for fainting spells.

The fruit made its way to North America in the 17th century by colonists who settled in Massachusetts. Johnny Appleseed traveled through the Ohio Valley in the early 1800s introducing apple seeds to the pioneers while missionaries continued to spread the apple seed westward.

Today pomologists claim there are roughly 7,500 apple varieties worldwide, but only 100 commercial crops in the United States, the majority grown in Washington State.

Apples are packed with fiber and potassium while having a low glycemic load. They are a great source of antioxidants, especially the Red Delicious, Northern Spy and Ida Red varieties. The anti-cancer crunch concentrated in the apples' peels has been linked to inhibiting the growth of liver, colon and breast cancer cells. Apples also contain flavonoids with antiallergic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, and have the richest source of pectin of all the fruits, found to lower bad cholesterol levels, reduce high blood pressure and control gallstones. Finally, a study has shown that children who drink a cup of apple juice daily were less likely to develop wheezing symptoms from asthma. So "An apple a day does keep the doctor away," as J.T. Stinson professed.

Always choose organically grown apples, since the conventional crops are the second most pesticide-laced fruit, after first-place peaches. Try a tangy firm Jonagold, a blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious, or a Winesap with a spicy wine-like flavor. Heart-shaped Galas with a striped yellow-orange skin are an ideal snack size, good in applesauce or salads. Heirloom apples that were concocted by European immigrants planting a smorgasbord of seeds from Canada, Europe and southern New England can be sampled at apple shows across the country.

Like my mom, I'm an incorrigible trivia buff, so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Here goes: the largest apple ever picked weighed in at three pounds; 80 percent of the fruit is water; and apples bruise easier than eggs break.

Here's a divine apple pie recipe, and when topped with a dollop of vanilla gelato, it's the best thing since little apples.

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