Know Your Apples: A Guide to NY State Apples and a Brief History of this Gem of a Fruit

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The apple is the jewel of NY State and for good reason. We are the second-largest apple producing state in the country, averaging 29.5 million bushels of apples per year on 55,000 acres (yes, all 50 states do produce apples, although only 36 states produce the fruit commercially.) People may think of New York City and Wall Street first when they hear of NY State, but in the other 54,252 square miles of NY, apple country dominates – creating 10,000 direct agricultural jobs and more than 7,500 indirect jobs (Ever wonder why NYC is just the “Big” Apple? this is why…)

Today I’m giving you the low-down on the top 10 types of apples grown and sold in NY State so you can take pride in being an expert on one of the highlights of NY culture, but first, let me lay out a few facts and a brief history of the apple.

Apples aren’t just a big deal in the US; they are a world-wide fruit favorite. Presently, 7,500 varieties are grown around the world, with China dominating 40% of the industry. The US is the second largest producer of apples; we grow 2,500 varieties – but only 100 of those are grown commercially – to make over 5 million tons of apples. In 2010, genomicists found that the apple contains 57,000 genes, more than any other plant genome studied thus far and more than the human genome (30,000). This allows for a huge amount of diversity in apple breeding, with varieties made to be perfect for cider, baking, cooking, and raw apples.

Despite our obsession as Americans with all things apple (as cider, pie, crisp, butter, jam, jelly), the fruit is not of North American origin. The first apple tree bloomed in Central Asia and quickly spread across the rest of Asia and Europe to become a dietary staple for millennia. Apples were so important that they were in fact fruit of the gods; in Norse mythology the gods sourced their immortality from apples, in Greek mythology the apple was a symbol of Aphrodite (the goddess of love and beauty) and to throw an apple at someone was a declaration of love, and in both Greek and Christian lore the apple was a symbol of life and knowledge.

Thanks to Reverend William Baxton, who in 1625 cultivated the first American apple orchard, we now enjoy local, home-grown apples. In NY state, the varieties below are the ones you absolutely should know.

 

mcintosh-apple

McIntosh

Sweet, Juicy, White Flesh, Red & White Skin, All-Purpose (cooking & eating)

Named after John McIntosh who discovered the seed in 1811

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Empire

A Hybrid of Red Delicious and McIntosh developed at Cornell in the 1940s

Red, Sweet & Tart, Juicy, Crisp White Flesh, Doesn’t Bruise Easily, the “Lunch-Box” Apple

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Red Delicious

Sweet, Juicy, Yellow Flesh

Created in 1880, Represented 3/4 of Washington State Apple Production in the 1980s

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Cortland

Sweet but a Little Tartness, Juicy, Tender White Flesh, Good for Dessert

golden-delicious-apple

Golden Delicous

Honey-sweet, Light Yellow Flesh, Bruises and Shrivels Easily, Great for Apple Sauce

Not Related to Red Delicious

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Rome

Mildly Tart, Greenish Flesh, Firm, Best for Baking

idared

Idared

The Classic Baking Apple, Holds Shape Well,  Makes a Pink-ish Apple Sauce

golden-delicious-apple

Crispin

Originally Called Mutsu, From Japan, Renamed in the ’60s

Lightly Sweet, Super Crisp, Favorite for Roasting

jonamac

Jonamac

Hybrid of McIntosh and Jonathan, Sweether Than Jonathan

Slight Taste of Honey, Hint of Spiced Cider

 

red_apple

Paula Red

Tart, Needs Only a Little Sugar When Baking

 

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Gala

From New Zealand, Mild Not Too Sweet/Tart Flavor, Yellow Flesh

To learn more about all varieties of apples grown and sold in NY State, check out this page.

 

Sources:

NY State Apples Image: http://www.nyapplecountry.com

Apple Images – Public Domain

Rome Apple Image: http://www.nyapplecountry.com

http://www.nyapplecountry.com

http://www.yara.us/agriculture/crops/apple/key-facts/world-apple-production/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple

 

Author: Jackie Ibragimov

B Lab: A New Way to Grade Businesses

Food can be labeled organic, fair trade, or local. Facilities can be labeled Leed Certified. Washers/Dryers can be sold as “Energy Star appliances”. But what about businesses?

For that, there is B Lab, a nonprofit that “serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good™” with the hopes of promoting a culture where businesses don’t just compete for profits but also to be the Best for the World®.

Certified B Corporations™ meet rigorous standards of “verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability”. These companies are by all means profit seeking, however in daily processes and in every step of the business process, these corporations take into account the impact of their actions on both society and the Earth.

There are currently over 1,600 Certified B Corporations in the world, spanning 42 countries, each having signed the Declaration of Interdependence. By signing the declaration, B Corps commit to conduct business as if “people and place [matter]”, to “do no harm and benefit all”, and to accept that “we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.”

Corporations are then reviewed for their impact on the Environment, relationship with Workers, impact on Customers and Community, and accountability and transparency in  Governance. All of these scores are released online and are compared to a median score of other businesses in the same industry. As an example, check out the B Corps Impact Report for Exygy, a software company.

Aside from official certification, B Lab also offers to all companies the use of their B Impact Assessment, which has been used by the likes of Etsy, Ben & Jerry’s, and Patagonia to help detect where companies can improve. Thus far, 15,000 companies have benefited from this tool.

The requirements of being B Corps Certified are quite simple, with the process being very open and inviting. Basically, if you commit to the cause, you’re welcome to join the cause, even if you have room to grow. Because that’s the goal, for all of these companies to continue growing, both in profit and in sustainable business practice, so that we may illustrate to the world that companies CAN be profitable and sustainable.

Thanks for learning with me, and have a green rest of your week!

 

Author: Jackie Ibragimov

 

What is Composting About?

I have an astounding statistic for you:

According to the 2011 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report, one thirds of all food products worldwide go uneaten.

That’s over 1.3 billion tons of food discarded each year. There are over 925 million people who suffer from hunger worldwide. Just let that sink in for a minute. We waste one third of all food and 925 million people are starving.

On top of that, most of the food wasted ends up in landfills and has major effects on the environment. When food breaks down it creates greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which contribute to global warming. All of these emissions can be avoided if we choose what we buy and consume more responsibly. Granted, no matter how responsible a person is, some food is bound to be wasted. There will be scraps of chopped vegetables, or crust cut off of sandwiches, or food you just absolutely can’t finish when out at lunch. Luckily, those can be diverted from landfills to compost bins.

UR Dining Services prides itself on composting everywhere it can, from Starbucks to Douglass. Did you know that Danforth is a zero waste facility? All leftover food and napkins are composted by our partnership with Waste Management. Even when the dishwasher breaks, all silverware, plates, and cups are compostable.

So why should we care about composting? Composting diverts food waste from landfills and creates nutritious fertilizer to grow more food. By not dumping our waste into the landfill, we also reduce carbon emissions.

Check out this article if you want to know more about food waste and its effect on the environment.

 

Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli

Organic & Fair Trade Farming: What do they really mean?

This term, I am taking Professor Rizzo’s “Environmental Economics” class. If you’re interested at all in how economics and the environment go together I suggest taking it. He gives out these ‘quizzes’ (which really are more like small exams) in which some of the questions require you to do research and read peer reviewed academic papers and present what you find.

The following question was on one of my quizzes:

So, what evidence is there that “Fair Trade” coffee is “better” for the environment? What evidence is there that “organic” farming practices are better for the environment and better for our health and nutrition?

It got me thinking about how some people may not know much about how fair trade and organic practice  relate to the environment. Fair trade is mostly associated with fair wages for farmers but there is a lot more to fair trade than just that. I thought I’d share what I found with all of you about the environmental side of fair trade and organic farming.

Before you read my response, I thought I’d lay out the differences between organic and conventional farming since in my response I assumed the reader knows the difference.

In order to be considered organic, farmers must follow a list of regulations laid out by the government. If any one is interested in all the specifics they can be found here; the document goes into every little detail you’d ever want to know about what you can and cannot do as an organic farmer. Here is how the USDA defines organic farming:

USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, April 1995

  • “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
  • “‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.
  • “Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.
  • “Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”

The biggest difference environmentally between conventional farming and organic is that conventional farming can use synthetically made pesticides and fertilizers. Conventional farms do follow some regulations – you obviously can not just dump DDT on your plants – but they are not as environmentally conscious as organic farms.

Below is my response:

According to the official Fair Trade guidelines for the USA in order to have the label of “Fair Trade” there is an environmental baseline standard that must be upheld. Some of these include limiting use of chemicals, sustainable and efficient use of water, trying to maintain biodiversity, and encouraging crop rotation.[1]  In an interview with coffee farmers they associated becoming a Fair Trade organization with learning more about becoming environmentally sustainable because the information was readily available.* They saw an improvement in their soil as well as their own personal health.[2]  There is not much scientific literature on the impacts of Fair Trade on the environment but because of the product guidelines in order to be considered Fair Trade the farm must have some sort of sustainable farming techniques. In general sustainable farming techniques have been found to benefit the environment.**

Organic farming has been proven to be better for the environment in a few regards.  One is the soil content is higher in nitrogen and organic material then compared to conventional farming. Another part of organic soil is that it has a higher retention of water and has advantages in drought conditions over traditional farming practices. There is also less soil erosion which prevents the runoff into local water resources. The Rodale Institute did a 22 year experiment comparing two different organic systems to a conventional practice. The results lean towards the organic systems having more benefits than the conventional systems. It was shown that “soil respiration was 50% higher in the organic animal system, compared with the conventional system.” Also the biodiversity in the soil was higher in the organic soils. [3]

In regards to organic food being healthier there has not been a definite consensus in scientific research. The main difference between organic and conventional farming nutrition is that organic produce has more nitrogen continent and a few other minerals. In a few cases more vitamin C was found in organic leafy vegetables as compared to traditional farming vegetables. However people who eat more organic products consume fewer pesticides than those who don’t. Even though it is believed washing conventional produce gets ride of the pesticides it has not been proven to do so. There has not been any connection that reducing pesticide consumption is good for a person’s health in the long run. [4]

Clarifications:

*When farms become fair trade they are able to have more access to information about the environment through the fair trade program this in turn allows farmers to be more well informed about their impact on the environment.

**This is based off previous research I have done.

As you can see there are environmental benefits to organic and fair trade products as opposed to regular conventionally farming. There however is still much research that needs to be done on both organic and fair trade procedures. I mention towards the end of my quiz response about organic farming and health and how their is no conclusive data. The scientific literature on fair trade and its impact on the environment is also very scarce. In the next decade I hope to see research that address these issue of organic or fair trade being healthier for humans and the environment. 

 

Sources:


[1] Fair Trade USA Environmental Standards: http://fairtradeusa.org/sites/all/files/wysiwyg/filemanager/Environmental_Standards_Fair_Trade_USA.pdf

[2]Assessing the Impact of Fair Trade Coffee: Towards an Integrative Framework

Karla Utting Journal of Business Ethics , Vol. 86, Supplement 1: Fair Trade (2009), pp. 127-149

[3] Pimentel, D., Hepperly, P., Hanson, J., Douds, D., & Seidel, R. (2005). Environmental, energetic, and economic comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems. Bioscience, 55(7), 573-582. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216474355?accountid=13567

[4] Forman, J., & Silverstein, J. (2012). Organic foods: Health and environmental advantages and disadvantages. Pediatrics,130(5) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1142679621?accountid=13567

 

Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli

NYS Local Food Facts

Happy Thursday of Local Foods week! Today, my blog post is going to be on the little known facts around local food, especially here in lovely New York state.

So here are some numbers:

23%: of the state of New York is dedicated to farm land (that’s about 700 million acres).

$332 million: Estimated valued worth of the grape vines in this state.

New York State is the third biggest producer of wine after California and Washington State.

1,500: the average number of miles traveled by the food for an average dinner.

It is estimated that we release 10kcal of energy into the air from car/truck exhaust for each 1kcal we receive.

Just a few number facts to rock your world today as we continue to explore the range of local food options available to us at UR and in the city of Rochester.

 

Author: Rachel Sanguinetti