I don’t even have to look at my calendar. The sudden drop in temperature, subtle yellowing of maple leaves and my nearly exhausted flower bed tell me that I’ll soon be trading warm weather for a parade of crunchy, sweet, tart and delicious autumn apples.

Apples in a basket

Choose apples for a healthy snack.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Historians tell us that we’ve been enjoying apples since at least 6500 B.C. There are thousands of varieties available worldwide, each with their own distinct flavor, cooking properties and nutritional merits.

Unfortunately, only a few apple varieties typically make their way to the produce section of national supermarkets. That’s the beauty of growing your own, visiting orchards or buying your unique favorites from local farmers.

Make this fall’s apple season the best for you and your family. Try these ideas for storing, serving and enjoying this year’s harvest:

  1. Store apples in the refrigerator. Keep them in a plastic bag with small air holes to prevent further ripening and maintain a high moisture level to delay withering. Check them frequently and remove any that look brown or bruised. (One bad apple really will spoil the bunch.)
  2. Perk up breakfast. Stir chopped apples and cinnamon into a steamy bowl of oatmeal; drizzle with maple syrup and top with chopped pecans.
  3. Pack apples in backpacks, lunch boxes and briefcases for a sweet, healthy midday snack at work or school.
  4. Serve hungry kids fresh apples with peanut butter for healthful after-school nourishment.
  5. Encourage kids to dip. Serve apple wedges with a small bowl of vanilla or raspberry yogurt, then let the dipping – and eating – begin. Growing bodies win with fiber, calcium and protein.
  6. Serve apples with assorted cheeses and wine for an elegant appetizer at your next social gathering.
  7. Try this healthy apple recipe: Simmer sliced apples, shredded red cabbage and minced onion with cider vinegar and brown sugar for a tangy, nutritious and colorful side dish for roast pork.

Recipe note: Although I’m the kind of cook that goes by instinct, approximate measurements for this recipe would be:

  • Two apples, cored and sliced (leave skins on for their nutritional benefit)
  • About ½ small head of red cabbage
  • ½ small red onion
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar

But by all means – adjust seasonings and ingredients to your taste! (It’s hard to go wrong with fresh, simple ingredients.)

  1. Another healthy apple recipe to try: Stuff baked acorn squash with a mixture of chopped apples, cooked with brown sugar, raisins and a dash of curry. Serve on top of brown rice.

Recipe note: Cut acorn squash in half, remove seeds and strings. Place cut-side down in a glass baking dish with enough water to reach 1/3 up the sides of squash. Bake about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until flesh is tender. While squash is baking, core and chop two apples, and simmer in a small sauce pan with the following:

  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider or water
  • A dash of curry powder.

Simmer lightly until raisins are plump and apples are tender. When squash is tender, invert in a serving bowl and spoon in apple/raisin/curry filling.

  1. Introduce a cozy, inviting aroma to your kitchen on cool autumn evenings: Sauté apple slices with brown sugar and cinnamon and serve over a small dish of vanilla ice cream.
  2. Check your state Department of Agriculture’s website to locate more farmers’ markets and orchards throughout your area.

See how many varieties of apples you can taste this fall. Keep a chart and make note of which ones each family member likes best. Children love doing taste tests, and it teaches them about the joys of biodiversity. Me, I’m a honey crisp fan, but my husband is partial to red delicious – and my kids love any variety, as long as it comes baked in a crust. Bon appétit!