August. Summer begins to wane, though the heat lingers long and late. We are still enjoying the bounty of summer, yes, but this is the month when the fruits of fall start to appear. I’m talking about apples. Yes, those shining globes associated with health, learning, and All-American Moms come into season as early as August.
Not all apple varieties are the same. You might know this with regard to cooking versus eating, but it is also true of ripening times. If you are one who prefers to buy and eat local, this can be important to know. You can immediately dismiss some apples as being from too far away simply by knowing their type: for example of two popular apples you might encounter, if one ripens in August and the other in November, you know those late-fall apples can only be from South America (or else really old) this time of year. So which apples ripen locally in August? Most reliably found from mid-August on are Gala apples. You may also find some early Golden Delicious and Ginger Gold a little later in the month.
Gala apples are wonderful fresh-eating apples. They are fairly round with pinkish red stripes over a yellow background. The cultivar originated in New Zealand but is very popular in the U.S. You will sometimes see them recommended for cooking, but they don’t really shine there. Their crisp, juicy, sweet-tart flavor is bright and lively when eaten out of hand, but on cooking becomes mild. They also break down completely when cooked, making them a better candidate for sauce than pie. However, if you have several on hand and want to enjoy them in a new way, try adding them to a salad. Tarragon in the dressing pairs well with their flavor, and if you are looking for a healthy lunch, a tarragon chicken salad featuring Gala apple chunks can be tasty and satisfying.
You can find local Galas in some stores and farmer’s markets, but even more fun can be a trip to the cooler mountain regions in our area to pick, or just pick up, some fresh-off-the-tree delights. If you’ve never had a truly fresh apple, this is quite the treat! A fresh apple is better: crisper, more aromatic, and with that indescribable something that makes real fresh food so satisfying… What are you waiting for? Get out there and get yourself some delicious, healthy food to nurture that precious temple you live in!
(Sites like applejournal.com and pickyourown.org have sections where you can find lists of orchards in Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia that welcome the public. Or you can just hop in a car and take a road trip out to the mountains. The apples are there, you will find them!)
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Sarah Vallieres is a writer, researcher and avid learner with diverse experience. She has been a small-scale organic grower, bartender, dog walker, editor for a research journal, and helped run a small business. With a B.A. in Biology, her interests (more indiscriminate than her experience) include painting, gardening/farming, nature, nutrition, animal training, buddhism and meditation, fitness, positive psychology and general life enjoyment.