An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. I Mean It.

Every year at this time I fall in love again - with apples. From mid-October and into the winter, I am a regular visitor to New York's Union Square, where one of the nation's largest green markets boasts a dazzling array of once banned fruits, many of which are varieties You will find in the market. Shelves of a supermarket. Eva would have a field day tearing apples in this Eden in Lower Manhattan!
Shopping in the green markets offers a rare opportunity for people in the city like me to meet the farmers and learn how the foods we enjoy are produced, so I had a chat with Jake Samascott, a fourth-generation Apple Kinderhook on the Hudson Valley of New York. The Samascott family orchard grows 60 types of apples on 100 acres, including several old standbys such as Macintoshes and Golden Delicious, as well as other more exotic varieties such as the scarlet flesh rose, and the strangely ribbed Caville Blanc. They are adding new varieties every year, including two just developed by Cornell University and not yet named.

Not all of Jake's fruits would be contenders in an apple beauty pageant. Some are gnarly, rough-skinned and have small, wheat-colored spots on their skin, and that may be one of the reasons why most supermarkets will not wear them. But when it comes to flavor, they leave their competition bought in the store crawling in the dust. Apple cognoscenti know that there is an inverse relationship between cosmetic perfection and taste. The uglier the fruits, the more likely they are filled with world-class nutrition and flavor. Apple varieties are as subtly spiced as fine wines, and with the price on Jake's stand for most varieties $ 1.25 per pound, the connoisseurship tab is a real bargain.
But price is not the only reason to stock up on apples - another is health.
Do you know what a clean feeling it gives you after you have eaten a fresh picked apple? Your gut may be telling you something important. Nutritionists have learned that soluble fiber called pectin as well as insoluble fibers in apple meat are powerful brooms that can remove many bad things like LDL cholesterol from the digestive tract and liver. So marked is this cleansing effect that apple pectin was used after the Chernobyl nuclear accident to reduce the traces of radioactive cesium and strontium 90 in Ukrainian schoolchildren.
And that's not all. There is growing evidence that apples are rich in phytochemicals that fight cancer. Research by Cornell toxicologist Rui Hai Liu found that eating apples inhibits tumor growth in rats, and can do the same in humans as well.
A Hong Kong study has shown that antioxidants in apples known as polyphenols, which combat cell damage due to aging, can help prolong our lives and reduce the risk of heart disease. Other research has shown that flavonoids in apples protect the central nervous system and may lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. And there is good news about the therapeutic effects of several other compounds on apples, which fight a range of diseases including asthma, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. A Brazilian study even showed that eating three apples a day significantly increased women's weight loss on a diet.
But there is a catch. Apples are regularly listed on the top 10 USDA list. And it may not be enough to rinse. Even after being peeled, most conventionally grown apples contain traces of up to 10 different pesticides that are suspected to cause damage to the nervous system, cancer, and hormonal alteration.
One of the worst offenders is called chlorpyrifos, a known neurotoxin and carcinogen. This pesticide, marketed by Dow Chemical, was banned by EPA, then quietly reauthorized during 2007 as a result of industry pressure, even though EPA scientists themselves acknowledged that children were particularly at risk of becoming ill Exposure to chlorpyrifos. This furtive reauthorization was also bad news for agricultural workers, who sprayed the poison in commercial orchards of backpack hose sprayers.
Given the dangers of pesticides, I asked Jake Samascott if he used them in his garden. They spray their trees at least once, Jake told me, usually during the flower stage in the spring. But unlike large-scale commercial producers, they keep their use of chemicals to a minimum. He said his neighbor's "organic" grower also sprays - much more often than he does - with copper and sulfur compounds that are considered "natural." So an organic label does not ensure that apples will be free of toxic chemicals. It is better to meet your farmers, recommends Jake Samascott, whether organic or conventional, and ask them how they work.
But not everyone has the luxury of buying in the green markets of the people who produce our food. In that case, organic buying may be the best way to minimize your risk of farm chemicals and enjoy one of the tastiest and healthiest nature treats.

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