What’s fresh in September? Apples

The apple of your eye

Story By Bailey Gilliam

Humans have been fascinated by the apple for as long as our existence. It’s become a popular candidate for the notorious forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden and is featured in Greek mythology. A falling apple inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity in 1666. The fruit has inspired practical advice, including the old Welsh proverb, “eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread,” which later morphed into “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” From art to science, politics to religion, the apple has figured into countless aspects of the human experience since antiquity. Our love for apples continues to grow, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re delicious, nutritious and versatile. Keep the popularity of this fruit alive, and keep reading to learn more about how to incorporate apples into your daily life.

Fun fact

More than 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, and they come in all shades of red, green and yellow.

One smart apple

You don’t need tons of land to grow apple trees. Even smaller spaces can accommodate a row of dwarf apple trees. Most fruit trees are available in dwarf form, typically reaching about six feet in size, and may also be grown in large planters. Semi-dwarf fruit trees grow to 10-15 feet tall. In comparison, full-size fruit trees reach 20 feet or more. Regardless of size, bare-root apple trees should be planted in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked, and container-grown apple trees can be planted throughout the growing season as long as they are given enough water. Pick a spot with full sun, well-draining soil and no nearby trees. Add support for later heavy fruit. Water young trees (roots only) regularly to ensure the root system is well established. Apples can be harvested in the late summer through the fall, depending on the variety. Pick when apples have reached the deepest shade of their cultivar color. They should separate from the stem with little resistance; simply twist and pull up. Annual pruning is required; remember, getting your first apples can take 1-3 years. Due to the less-than-ideal conditions of our area, Clemson University recommends these varieties: Yates, Granny Smith, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. Otherwise, you might want to head to the foothills and mountains to get your fix. 

healthy eating, dieting, slimming and weigh loss concept - close up of green apple, measuring tape and salad

An apple a day 

We’ve all heard that delightful phrase, and perhaps some of us got squeamish imagining eating an apple every day for the rest of our lives. Whether or not you follow this haphazard advice, apples have many impressive health benefits. They can lower high cholesterol and blood pressure, aid in digestion, support a healthy immune system, support healthy weight loss and keep your gut healthy. They also could be linked to preventing Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer. They are high in water content and antioxidants, are rich in fiber and are a great diabetes-friendly food. 

How do you like them apples?

Check the apple firmness: Pick up the apple and feel the fruit’s skin. You can even gently press a small area of the skin to ensure firmness. Avoid apples that are noticeably soft, mushy or indent easily after you press the skin. These aren’t necessarily bad apples but won’t be the best from a fresh-eating standpoint. 

Visually examine the apple: Turn the apple completely in your hand to visually check for quality. Some markings on the fruit, like a scuff or speck, come from nature and don’t signal a bad apple. But apples with bruising or obvious signs of decay aren’t going to provide the best experience if eaten raw.

Glance at the color of the apple: For red varietal apples, look for the green background to be covered mostly by red or pink-orange hues. 

Give your apple a sniff: A fresh, high-quality apple should have a pleasant aroma. This will vary by variety, with some apples, like Gala, having a stronger fragrance than others.

Find apples with stems: Apples with intact stems last longer than those without stems. Microorganisms can enter apples with detached stems, leading to decay.

Autumn apple tree grove in Surrey, England

Seeds to trees?

A common question is whether it’s possible to simply plant the seed of a variety you like rather than buy a young tree. While it’s certainly possible to grow an apple tree from a seed, the apple tree you get probably won’t be the kind you hoped for. (Yes, we’re sorry to tell you that Johnny Appleseed wasn’t all he’s cracked up to be.) Apple seeds are genetically different from their parent tree, meaning things like tree size, hardiness and fruit quality will differ, and will usually be poorer. Plus, it can take 8-10 years for an apple seedling to grow big enough to produce apples, so you may wait a while. Nevertheless, growing an apple seedling can still be a fun experiment.

One bad apple spoils the whole barrel

We understand that apples serve more than just culinary purposes; they are also decor. If you want to display a beautiful bowl of crisp, whole apples on your counter top, go right ahead. But remember that they will only last in that spot for about a week, so be sure to enjoy them quickly. At least keep them out of direct sunlight. If you want to extend the shelf life of your apples, keep them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Wrapping whole apples in a damp paper towel and placing them in a plastic bag with holes can keep them fresh for about six weeks. Remove apples with any bruises or that look like they’re going bad or don’t have a stem. Ideally they shouldn’t touch each other because rot spreads on contact. Also be mindful not to store them next to other fruits and vegetables because apples contain ethylene gas that will ripen other produce more quickly. Sliced apples don’t last as long as the whole fruit. Store them in a resealable bag or airtight food storage container in the refrigerator to make the most of them. They will stay fresh for about 3-5 days, though you might notice that they will start to turn brown. To keep apple slices from browning, toss them in a little lemon juice before putting them in a container in the fridge. You also can freeze apples for later use. Core, peel, cut into slices and coat apples with lemon juice to prevent discoloring. Flash-freeze them overnight and transfer them to a freezer bag for long-term storage.

Where to get them

Farmers Market of Bluffton: Purchase locally grown apples from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursdays in Old Town Bluffton. 

Marshview Farm and Otis Daise Sr. and Son Produce are Certified SC members that grow delicious apples. You also can head upstate to orchards in Long Creek (Chattanooga Belle Farm), Mount Rest (Bryson’s Apple Orchard), Greer (Fisher’s Orchard) or York (Windy Hill Orchard). 


Meemaw’s cooked apples

This pan-fried apple recipe from my grandmother, Lydia Gilliam, tastes like decadent Southern history. Serve as a side dish or serve with ice cream for a decadent dessert. 

Fried apples with cinnamon in a cast iron skillet, fall side dish


2 pounds apples (2-3 cooking apples)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 cup water


[1] Peel and slice apples and add to a large pot. [2] Add 1 cup of water to the pot. [3] Add 3/4 cup of sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon. [4] Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the apples are tender.

 Wine Time Bluffton 

Arugula Apple Salad

This arugula salad with apples, walnuts, goat cheese and cider glaze from chef Kevin Cleary, general manager of Wine Time, highlights apples in fresh and liquid forms. Granny Smith apples add crunch and tartness, but you can substitute any apple.


6 cups baby arugula, washed

1 small shallot, finely minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil

2 Granny Smith apples, cut into slices

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

3 cups apple cider

Salt and pepper to taste


[1] For the cider glaze: pour apple cider into a saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer. Cook until cider is reduced by about 80 percent (it should be thick). Strain and set aside. [2] For the dressing: combine shallot, thyme, and red wine vinegar in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil in a stream while mixing. Season to taste and set aside. Refrigerate until ready to use. [3] Compose the dish: add baby arugula, apples and walnuts to a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup dressing and toss to coat. Evenly distribute onto 4 chilled salad plates. Crumble goat cheese over the top and drizzle with cider glaze.

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