gold 'n' delicious - an apple a day keeps the doctor away

Submitted by MichaelE on Thu, 2010-04-29 13:27

apples - keep the doctor away this winterapples - keep the doctor away this winterThe apple. The forbidden fruit. There is extensive history and mythology surrounding the apple, and we have been eating apples for millennia, Archaeologists have evidence of people eating apples as far back as 6500 B.C. Apples originated in Central Asia and at least 55 million tons of apples were grown worldwide in 2005, with a value of about $10billion. The biggest producer of apples was China. South Africa has around 22,5 million Apple trees.The following areas are where they are mostly grown: Ermelo (Mpumalanga), Bethlehem( Free State), Langkloof, and many areas of the Western Cape. The Elgin Valley near Grabouw is the main producing area for apples in south Africa. 60% of South Africa’s apple crop is harvested in the Grabouw region, just one hour outside of Cape Town. However there was a shortfall of cold storage apples last year, and Shoprite Checkers made history when they imported apples from America (the second biggest producer) for the first time (previously they had been banned from doing this) to fill the gap in the market over Christmas.

Apples have often played an important role in European cultures. They were picked in late autumn and stored for use during the winter months. In the Christian tradition, the apple has been believed by many to be the forbidden fruit that Eve tempted Adam with in the garden of Eden. This is misleading as the fruit is not specified in the Bible and the word apple was used to denote any strange fruit right up until the seventeenth century. In Greek mythology, Hercules famously had to go and pick golden apples from the tree of life which was growing at the centre of the Garden of the Hesperides. The mythological connection with youth and well being was also found in Norse mythology where golden apples were said to give the gods and goddesses their youth.

This is perhaps one of the reasons that the apple has always been associated with youthfulness and health, hence the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. As if their health benefits weren't enough they have also been credited with helping to solve the problem of gravity. An apple supposedly helped Isaac Newton solve this problem, when he watched an apple fall off of a tree.

The health benefits of apples:

One medium apple contains about 80 calories. They are healthy and portable snack, and they are a great alternative to biscuits and chips when snacking. Most of us like eating apples, and they pack a powerful punch. The nutrients in 100g of apple are:

Vitamin A : 900 I.U.
Vitamin B : Thiamine .07 mg.;
Vitamin C : 5 mg.
Vitamin G : Amount uncertain
Calcium : 6 mg.
Iron : 3 mg.
Phosphorus : 10 mg.
Potassium : 130 mg.
Carbohydrates : 14.9 gm.
Calories : 58

Apples have been linked to helping so many different diseases, they really can lay claim to being one of natures wonders. Apples have been linked to reducing the risk of many different cancers. The risk of prostate cancer is thought to be reduced by eating apples, and is possibly due to a flavonoid found in apples called quercetin. Foods containing high levels of flavonoids such as those found in apples may reduce your risk of getting cancer by as much as 50%.
There have also been studies done, which suggest that flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables like apples are good at reducing free radicals and ageing. There has also been research that shows that apples can lower your risk of heart attacks. Eating apples also lowers your cholesterol as “Numerous studies over the past quarter century have shown that a diet rich in apples can help lower blood cholesterol. Pectin, a soluble fiber found in apples at a rate of .78 grams per 100 grams of edible fruit, is thought to play a significant role in that relationship.”
For more information on the health benefits of apples have a look at

Growing your own apples

Now, I know that many of us here in South Africa do not have the climate and the garden space to grow their own apples. If you are lucky enough to have the space, and the right sort of climate, plant an apple tree. Apple trees usually need about 900 hours at a temperature below 7 degrees Celsius for them to flower. This means that they are ideally grown in the Western Cape in South Africa. With over 7,500 varieties, which come in several sizes, so you are sure to find one that will suit your garden. Beyond the consideration of dwarf vs. standard varieties, the first thing you should do to determine the varieties of apple trees that grow best in your region. Your local Extension Office can provide you with this information. The following are examples of varieties that can be grown in the Cape region
"Golden Delicious", "Granny Smith," "Pink Lady,""Honeycrisp".

Apple trees generally consist of two parts, the scion and the rootstock. The scion cultivar determines the type of apple and the fruiting habit of the tree. The rootstock determines the earliness to bear fruit, the overall size of the tree, and its longevity. Both the scion and rootstock affect the pest susceptibility and the cold hardiness of the tree. Thus, careful selection of both the cultivars and the rootstock will contribute to the fruit quality over the life of the tree.

There are dwarf root stocks available that mean you can have a small tree that will not take up much space. These root stocks have a coding system with the smallest being “M27”. For this the smallest variety you will need about four meters square around each tree. If you are considering planting apples it is best that you consult your supplier about what variety you want and the site. With some varieties of apples you will need to plant two trees, so that they will pollinate each other.

The work does not end there, as you need to prune apple trees so that they produce good crops. You may also need to thin out your crop of apples so that you get nice apples and the tree is not overburdened with apples, as this may cause branches to break. To do this remove the centre or “king fruit” which is abnormally shaped and any damaged fruit. This should be done in mid summer, just after the tree naturally sheds imperfect fruit.

Apple trees prefer a sunny position that is sheltered from the wind, and the trees should be watered during hot dry spells of weather and be fertilised annually.

So, if you feel up to the challenge and are lucky enough to live in the right area, apples are a great fruit to grow, though not necessarily the easiest. For more information about growing apples in South Africa contact one of the nurseries listed below.

Otherwise, I suggest that you go on down to your local organic market and buy a packet of apples as they will be of immense benefit to you. If you can't do that, at least add some apples to your shopping trolley the next time you are in Pick n' Pay. Remember that most of the helpful flavonoids are in the skin so don't peel it.

You can buy apple trees from the following nurseries:

Rosenhof Nursery

023 316 1355

Witzenberg Range Nurseries

021 874 1033

Caledon Nursery

021 848 9790

Alternatively, see our list of where to buy organic friut and vegetables.