As we’ve written in our blogs before, all produce begins to lose its nutritional value and peak flavor and texture the moment it is harvested. It’s especially worth repeating now, during apple season. Here in the United States, apples typically ripen between late August and late September. That means this is only time of year when you can buy fresh apples.
But don’t count on getting fresh-picked apples from your local supermarket. Quite often, your best bet for getting apples fresh off the tree is from farm stands and markets like Muzzarelli Farm Market.
In an article for Modern Farmer entitled, “Farm Confessional: Secrets of a Supermarket Produce Buyer,” a former produce director for A&P supermarkets revealed that supermarkets won’t purchase locally grown produce that’s only available for a few months out of the year, opting instead to buy from producers who can supply all year-round. That means that the apples and other fruits on the supermarket shelves may come from places like South America, even though the freshest apples available may have been grown within a few miles of the store where the foreign apples are being sold. Crazy, right?
What’s worse is, the apples in the supermarket may look fresh, but they are 14 months old, on average, according to According to Martin Lindstrom, author of “Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.”
Lindstrom’s conclusions are backed up by data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the USDA website, freshly picked apples left untreated will last a few weeks before they turn soft and rot, so they’re often chemically treated and stored under temperature-controlled conditions that allow them to last up to 10 months.
“To slow the proverbial sands of time, some fruit distributors treat their apple bins with a gaseous compound, 1-methylcyclopropene,” the USDA states. “It extends the fruits’ post-storage quality by blocking ethylene, a colorless gas that naturally regulates ripening and aging.”
The moment the apples are removed from cold storage, the clock starts ticking once again, and they will resume their decline in crispness, taste and nutritional value.
“A fresh-picked apple is always going to have the optimal nutrient profile of vitamins and minerals,” said Madelyn Fernstrom, a diet and nutrition editor for the TODAY show. “Apples are especially rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant.”
Those antioxidants will disappear over time. The website Food Renegade cites research that claims a year-old apple may retain close to none of its antioxidant properties.
The bottom line for ensuring you’re eating the freshest and tastiest apples that pack the most health benefits is to buy fresh, and buy in season. Buy from a local farmer or farm market whenever possible. And once you get your apples home, store them on the countertop rather than in the refrigerator.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Well, they’re sold near the tree, too. Stop by Muzzarelli Farm Market today and get your favorite apple variety for snacking and baking!