An Apple A Day?

“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.” ~ Bernard Baruch



Apple season is in full swing here in Ohio. From my home, Springhill Fruit Farm is an 8 ½ mile drive along winding roads bordered by hard-wood forests. The trees are just beginning to turn their fall colors before dropping their leaves. In spring, the fruit groves of pink and white blossoms signal the birds and bees that it’s time to do their job pollinating apple blossoms.


“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” was first recorded in 1922. But the original version of this familiar saying came from mid-Ninetieth Century Wales: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” Although both versions of the “apple a day” saying are modern, the ancient Romans and Anglo-Saxons knew of the healthful benefits of apples. And 1,500 years ago in Southeast Asia people who practiced Ayurvedic medicine used apples for healing. Those apples were not the delicious fruit we know today; they were small, seedy, and bitter.

Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) who roamed these parts (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana) in the early 1800s is responsible for improvements in the quality and taste of apples grown in the U.S. Appleseed started apple nurseries to raise stock, brought from Europe, to sell to the pioneers settling the Midwest. Early arrivals used apples to make cider which pioneers could safely drink when the available water quality was uncertain. Over the next two centuries, cross-breeding resulted in the numerous types of apples available today. Hybridizing continues all over the world to develop new varieties.


Apples are nutritious. A recent study at The Ohio State University found that eating an apple a day can significantly help lower bad cholesterol in middle-aged adults; a Dutch study showed that apples can lower stroke risk.

Apples contain an abundance of healthful nutrients:

  • Pectin is a soluble fiber that lowers blood pressure and glucose levels and helps maintain digestive health
  • Boron supports strong bones and brain health
  • Quercetin is a flavonoid that reduces risk of some forms of cancer
  • Vitamin C boosts immunity
  • Phytonutrients fight free-radical damage
  • Potassium helps maintain normal heart rhythm

To get the most nutrients, eat the whole, unpeeled apple because most of the healthful benefits are in the skin.


The Alar scare of the late 1980s caused a ruckus that many of us of a certain age still remember. Alar is a plant growth regulator. Studies showed it causes cancer. In 1989, when the dangers of Alar on apples were exposed, Congress held hearings. Findings from the hearings led the only manufacturer of Alar to voluntarily stop selling it in the U.S. for use on food before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could enact a ban.

Regular testing shows that pesticide residue in apples is between 10 and 100 times below what the U.S. EPA allows.

Although they are grown with fewer chemicals then they were 20 years ago, apples are at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen. To protect your family from pesticides buy organic apples when you can get them. If your only option is conventionally grown apples, thoroughly clean them with natural soap and scrub with a soft brush. The soap cuts the oily chemicals. Don’t let the possibility of pesticides discourage you from eating locally grown apples and other fruit as part of a healthy diet.


Apples come in many flavors and colors and are continually being cross-bred to develop new varieties. Many apples are cultivated to be disease resistant; heirloom varieties are available in specialty shops. Honeycrisp, a market-favorite, took twenty years to develop. It is a crisp flavorful apple with a short season.

At this time of year my favorite afternoon snack is apple slices smeared with organic crunchy peanut butter but you can try almond or cashew butter if you’re allergic to peanuts.

Apple Walnut Cake

This cake is not the usual light fluffy cake most of us think of as a birthday cake, it has nuts and apples adding texture. No frosting needed.

This recipe is adapted from the Cranapple-Walnut Cake in Mollie Katzen’s first book, Moosewood Cookbook.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Baking time: 45 to 50 minutes
You will need a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex baking dish.

½ cup soft butter (not melted)
¾ cup unrefined cane sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range
1 teaspoon baking soda**
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg*
1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups white whole wheat flour
½ cup walnut pieces
2 cups (about) finely sliced unpeeled washed apples (of your choice)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex pan.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time beating between each. Add the soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanilla and beat in.
  3. Stir in the flour and walnuts. Fold in the apples.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a knife or spatula.
  5. Bake 45 – 50 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking with a toothpick until it comes out clean. The middle-top will still be moist. Over baking will make a drier cake so a little underdone is good.
  6. Serve plain or with real ice cream or whipped cream.
  7. This cake is delicious warm or cold.


* You can vary the amounts of the spices and add others you like: ginger, cardamom, or any of the sweet spices.

** Shaking the baking soda and spices through a fine mesh sifter prevents clumps.

Author:Sharon Reese

Lacto-ovo vegetarian for over four decades.

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I will be pleased to hear from you. I’ll try to answer questions you might have about cooking or nutrition.


  1. So You Think You Can't Cook - Healthful Cooking - February 26, 2015

    […] a crust. I seldom bake pies, and don’t make cakes that need frosting. For birthdays I make an Apple Walnut Cake without frosting. Icing a cake to perfection is way too much work, and we don’t need all that […]

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