Apples keep well when stored in refrigerator

October 15, 2003|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Often chosen as a symbol of nutrition and health by graphic artists, apples are a good source of folic acid and a moderate source of several other nutrients. They're also relatively low in calories. An average apple supplies around 80 calories.

Apples are especially rich in pectin fiber, which is associated with helping keep blood cholesterol levels in balance. It is this pectin fiber, along with its moisture content and bland flavor, that makes applesauce a good low-fat substitute for some of the fat in cakes, muffins and cookies.

Apples sometimes have been called "nature's toothbrush." Although eating an apple is not a substitute for proper brushing and flossing, the fibrous texture of apples helps make them a natural detergent for teeth when brushing isn't possible.

In the fall when supplies are plentiful, it's usually more economical to buy apples in large quantities (by the half or full bushel) rather than by the pound - provided you like apples and have refrigeration or suitable storage for your bargain.


A refrigerator is the best place to store apples. A properly harvested apple, kept at room temperature, becomes overripe and mealy within a few days. The same apple held at 32 degrees in the humidifier compartment of a refrigerator will remain in good condition for four to six months, longer in some cases. If the humidifier compartment is full, store apples in the refrigerator in plastic bags that have a few air holes.

Commercially, apple producers combine low temperatures and a controlled atmosphere - in which oxygen is reduced and carbon dioxide is increased - to slow the respiration rate of apples, thereby extending their storage life.

Apples produce their own natural wax coating during growth. This helps them retain moisture after picking. However, many packers wash picked apples with a solvent detergent to remove dirt and pesticide residues that accumulate during growth. This also removes the wax coating, leaving the apple susceptible to loss of moisture.

To solve this problem, many packers coat washed apples with a commercial wax such as Carnauba. Carnauba is an inert product derived from the leaves and buds of the Brazilian wax palm. It's been used in foods since 1900 and, according to the Food and Drug Administration, causes no ill effects at the level it is used on apples. Regardless, many consumers find highly waxed apples unappealing. Luckily, unwaxed apples are usually available and most of the wax on coated apples can be washed or rubbed off.

If you do have extra apples, one way to preserve them for later use as snacks is by drying. Apple slices can be dried in a dehydrator or oven. If you're drying apples at home, try soaking freshly cut apple slices for 10 minutes in a solution containing 3 teaspoons of ascorbic acid crystals per pint (2 cups) of water, then dry for five to six hours at 140 degrees. The ascorbic acid treatment helps preserve the color and improves the vitamin C content of the apple slices. Perhaps more importantly, it acts as an antimicrobial agent against E. coli and other bacteria that have been found to survive on apple slices dried without any such treatment.

The following recipe for Blue Cheese, Apple and Spinach Pizza offers another idea for using apples.

Blue Cheese, Apple and Spinach Pizza

  • 1 can refrigerator breadstick dough

  • Vegetable cooking spray

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach leaves

  • 2 medium Rome apples, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese

Unroll breadstick dough, separating into strips. Working on a flat surface, coil 1 strip of dough into a spiral shape. Add second strip of dough to the end of the first strip, pinching ends together to seal, continue coiling dough into a spiral pattern.

Repeat procedure with remaining dough strips to make an 8-inch circle. Roll coiled dough into a 12-inch circle and place on 12-inch pizza pan coated with cooking spray.

Arrange spinach, apple and cheese over dough. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or until crust is golden.

Serves 3 to 4.

Lynn F. Little is family and consumer sciences educator at University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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