Thinking about caramel apples already? If you’re wondering about the popularity of the juicy fruit and how North Carolina ranks seventh nationally in apple production, look to Henderson County extension director Terry Kelley for five facts at the core of the craze.
- There’s competition in the apple world among varieties. The Red Delicious – one of the most popular and easily recognizable apples in the country – is going out of style, according to Kelley. The Gala variety is surpassing it in common use, but at least the Red Delicious still has its pride.
- The apple industry in North Carolina is based on the fresh market crop. April Blazich, the State Fair horticulture superintendent, said this means that an NC apple is always fresh-picked and sold in season, unlike in other states. Peak apple season is from mid-August through October when the cool nights change the color from green to red, which means those candy apples you eat at the fair will be fresh and ripe.
- But they’re not always red – other varieties can appear anywhere from yellow to black. A Golden Delicious apple is nearly the color of the sun, while the Arkansas Black can grow to be so dark maroon that it looks black. Other classics include Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Cameo, Fuji, Jonagold, King Luscious and one of Kelley’s favorites, the Pink Lady – a later apple that usually comes into harvest as a treat after Halloween.
- One county in NC is an apple overachiever. That’s Henderson County, Kelley said. This county produces more apples alone than 41 other states can produce in total. The other areas of the state apples are grown in include Haywood, Wilkes and Cleveland counties. One tree can take up to seven years to bear fruit, and overall, North Carolina has 9,000 acres of apple orchards.
- Apples can be eaten with more than just peanut butter. Apple products are all the rage, Kelley said, as many apple growers in North Carolina with bakeries are also producing apple butter, pies, donuts, jelly, cider, muffins and more. But if you’re craving just the plain fruit, you’re in for a healthy treat – apples are high in fiber and potassium, and low in fat and sodium.