“My first loose tooth! FINALLY!” This was one of the many thoughts racing through my head as I obsessively wiggled my first loose tooth during the fall of my kindergarten year. My teacher, Mrs. Kristofferson, would tape a big paper tooth to the wall, with the name of the child and the date, for each tooth that someone lost during the school year. I remember watching the teeth slowly accumulating on the wall and feeling envious of all my classmates who had gone through the right of passage of losing a tooth. Then one afternoon my friend Stacy and I binged on crisp green apples and I discovered, with much delight, that one of my baby teeth was loose. Every year during the fall, I can’t help but think of that first loose tooth when I bite into a good green apple. Squirrel is now experiencing her first loose tooth, and I watch and smile as her hand sneaks up to her mouth so that she can make sure that the tooth still wiggles. I wonder what memories she will associate with her first loose tooth when she is older?
Loose tooth or not, fall is a fabulous time for apples. Did you know that there are an estimated 15,000 to 16,000 apple varieties that have been named and grown in North America, yet only about 3,000 remain accessible, meaning that an estimated four out of five apple varieties unique to North America have been lost from commerce. According to the RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) Alliance, “Of the remaining fifth of the varieties still available, 81 percent are now ‘endangered’ in the marketplace, with only one to three nurseries offering such varieties for sale to growers.’” Incredibly, one apple variety, the Red Delicious, makes up 41 percent of the entire American apple crop, and a mere 11 varieties make up 90 percent of all apples sold in chain grocery stores in the U.S. These varieties are bred to be grown in large-scale orchards, travel well over long distances, and look good on store shelves. In the process, many argue, these varieties have lost flavor. Thanks to the efforts of some orchards and groups like the RAFT Alliance, some of the old varieties, now known as “heirloom” or “heritage” varieties, are being cultivated and promoted with renewed interest.
Frieda’s Specialty Produce Company recently sent me a selection of heirloom apples to try. Frieda’s recently joined forces with a grower who is harvesting more than 17 varieties of heirloom apples, each one unique in its appearance, taste, texture, and history. The girls and I had a little impromptu tasting party at the kitchen table, biting into slices of each variety—each of us with rivulets of apple juice running down our chins. That’s the way it’s done, by the way. At our house the rule is that if you didn’t get any apple juice on your chin, you didn’t enjoy that apple.
We tried King David apples—a variety with a dark red skin and crisp, juicy yellow flesh that was less sweet than we expected, but still delicious.
We tried Cortland apples—a variety with red skin and streaks of darker red running over it, and crisp, white, juicy flesh that is sweet and slightly tart.
We tried Mutsu apples—a large variety with greenish-yellow skin and yellowish-white flesh that is juicy and crisp, with a coarser texture and very bright and tangy flavor.
And then we tried Pink Pearl apples—a variety with greenish-yellow skin with a hint of pink blush with a startling pink flesh that is very juicy and is the perfect balance between tart and sweet.
The Pink Pearl apple took us by surprise, both because of the unexpected color of the flesh when we cut it open, and because of the incredible flavor. Although we loved all of the apples, the Pink Pearl was easily our favorite, and they disappeared faster than you could say “Johnny Appleseed.”
The next apple variety to disappear was the Mutsu which I made into a refreshing green smoothie. If you don’t have a Mutsu apple on hand, use a couple crisp, tart apples in its place. Although drinking this smoothie won’t help your kids loosen any teeth, the bright and tangy flavor of the apple shines through, making this a wonderful way to start a morning, especially if you’re feeling sluggish. After you’ve woken up, go see what heirloom varieties you can find in your area and have your own tasting.* If we seek them out and eat them, we can help preserve some of our rich agricultural history.
Green Apple Smoothie
Makes about 3 1/4 cups
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 large apple
2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1 cup ice cubes
1. Place all the ingredients in the blender jar and puree until smooth and creamy. Add additional water to adjust the thickness of the smoothie as needed.
*Frieda’s varieties of heirloom apples are being sold exclusively at Sprouts locations.
** Disclosure: Frieda’s sent me apple samples to try, but I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own!