Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A is for Apple-licious!


Did you know that October is National Apple Month? We at Purple Asparagus sure do! These days our cars are smelling all apple-licious as we cart varieties like Mutsu, Razor Russet, Scarlet O’Hara, and Lucky Jon’s to Chicago Public Schools all over the city.

See Purple Asparagus is a non-profit that educates children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Our cornerstone educational program, Delicious Nutritious Adventures, teaches elementary school students about fruits and vegetables in season. Starting with a tasting and ending with a cooking lesson, each program is designed to get kids excited about eating fresh, local and seasonal produce.

In October, we taste 6 or 7 varieties of locally grown apples ranging from tart to sweet. Our students compare the texture, the taste, and of course the appearance of America’s favorite fruit. During the tasting, we learn about Johnny Appleseed and his role in spreading the seeds of apple love to most of the Continental United States. He was quite persuasive and today each of the 50 states can boast its own variety of apple. In America alone, we grow 2,500 different kinds. Worldwide, the number of apple varieties rise to 7,500. If you were to eat a single apple variety every day, it would take over 20 years to eat every kind of apple grown. That’s a lot of apples!

Apples range in size. The smallest member of the apple family grows on a shrub and is smaller than the size of a penny. The largest recorded apple weighed in at over three pounds. In between, most of the apples, we get from the grocery store or the farmers’ market are about ½ pound each.

Even if Purple Asparagus doesn’t visit your child’s school, there’s lots of apple fun to be had this autumn. The farmers’ markets are stocked with heirloom apple varieties. Within a quick drive you could visit an orchard, picking your own supply of apples (apples keep well for several weeks in a well-ventilated, cool, and dry space). And next week, November 4 at 7pm, you could visit with me and my son as we celebrate the fun of apple picking and make a variety of family friendly apple recipes at Kenmore Live Studio located at 678 North Wells in Chicago. There will be tastings, prizes and lots of family fun. Kids welcome.

Apple-Pumpkin Pancakes
Serves 4, making 8 large pancakes, 16 small ones

Chock full of fragrant spices, these pancakes are the epitome of fall cooking. You could always double the recipe, cook the pancakes over the weekend, and the reheat over the week for easy pre-school breakfasts.

¾ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 extra large egg+
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup 2 % milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ large apple, grated
Butter for cooking

Stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk together the wet ones in another medium bowl. Stir the dry mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes. Cook on a hot griddle with the remaining butter until browned over medium low heat. Serve with maple syrup.

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