By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
That old adage of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” not only rings true (apples are one of the most nutritious foods under the sun, packed with fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C, and devoid of any fat or cholesterol), but, because they are available nearly year-round, is easy to live up to.
And in Mexico, where the annual per capita consumption of the fruit is 8.1 kilograms a year (impressive, but not nearly as high as in the United States, where the comparable figure is about 10 kilos a year), the demand for fresh, crisp apples is so high that the country has to import nearly a third of its total apple supply from abroad.
And where do all those apples come from?
The answer is that, almost in their entirety, imported apples in Mexico come from the northeastern U.S. state of Washington, which produces about 128 million boxes of the tasty little pommes each year. (At 18 kilos a box, that’s about 2 billion kilos a year. And this year was a bountiful year, so production reached 135 million barrels.)
In Washington, there are currently more than 175,000 acres of apple orchards, most of which are family-owned.
“About 30 percent of the apples produced in Washington end up being exported abroad,” explained Washington Apple Commission representative in Mexico Juan Carlos Moreira, during a media conference on Monday, Dec. 2, to announce the first-ever International Apple Week festival.
“In fact, Washington produces about 60 percent of all the apples grown in the United States, and 90 percent of all U.S. apples that are exported.”
Moreira went on to note that Mexico is the largest market for Washington apples, representing about 30 percent of all international sales.
There are more than 7,500 types of apples on the market, he said, and Washington produces about 2,500 of them.
There are nine common varieties of apples that account for the majority of the Washington crop: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Cripps Pink and Cameo, but Granny Smith remains the most popular variety.
Washington is also growing a new strain of the fruit, the Cosmic Red, but, so far, the production is low so there are no exports of it.
Moreira said that apples in Washington are usually harvested between August and November, depending on the type, and then kept in intense refrigeration so that they can be fresh when sold throughout the year.
“There aren’t many fruits that can last that long,” he said. “That is why we have the pleasure of being able to enjoy apples every day.”
And with five grams of fiber (20 percent of your daily recommended intake) and all those extra nutrients (not to mention the great, refreshing taste of biting into an apple), there is really no reason why you can’t comply with that old wives’ tale medical advice of “an apple a day…”