WANT TO REALLY IMPRESS your sweetheart with a sensual Valentine’s Day treat that goes straight to the heart and is more filling than chocolate?
Try sweet, crunchy, aromatic apples, whose association with love is the stuff of legends.
Apples bring real red (or green or gold) color to this season of whites and grays, not the cellophane stuff you find wrapped around a cardboard heart.
Candy, for all its sweetness, is loaded with empty calories that could eventually force your loved one to the dentist or gym. No matter how you wrap them, chocolates send a mixed message.
You will be doing your sweetheart a favor by serving apples, satisfying his or her sweet tooth while promoting a long and healthy life. Consider:
- Apples contain phytonutrients, chemical substances that play an important role in maintaining good health and preventing disease. The phytonutrients in apples help regulate and prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
- Apples contain polyphenols, which protect cells and tissues from free radicals — molecules that can cause damage by attaching to cell membranes, DNA, and proteins.
- A medium-sized apple has only about 80 calories.
- Apples have lots of dietary fiber, and they are a good source for potassium and Vitamin C.
- Two apples a day cut one’s risk of stroke by nearly one-third.
- Fresh apples keep teeth clean and massage gums.
- Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that encourages beneficial bacteria to grow in the digestive tract.
- Eating an apple before exercise increases endurance, as quercetin, a polyphenol found in apples, makes oxygen more available in your lungs.
- Eating an apple before a meal is a good strategy for people trying to lose weight.
IMPRESSIVE as these virtues are, though, they are not especially romantic. Apples need to be more than healthy and wholesome to make an impact on your sweetie. They must be mouth-watering delicious, sensuous, and evoke love and beauty. In these, the apple has no peers.
No story about the apple’s irresistible appeal is more telling than Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden. The apple works on all the senses: colorful, fragrant, crunchy, crispy, brimming with juice. Smooth and shapely, an apple is as beautiful to touch as it is to behold, fitting snugly in the palm of one’s hand.
Golden apples have symbolized beauty and desire over centuries and across cultures. They appear in fairy tales from Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, and Russia. In Norse mythology, golden apples grant immortal life to the gods.
Golden apples figure prominently in several Greek myths about beauty and love. Eris, the goddess of discord, outraged that she was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis, threw a golden apple inscribed “for the fairest” before the goddesses Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera.
The three argued over who should get the apple, and Zeus was unwilling to decide. He directed the mortal Paris, a Trojan shepherd boy, to answer the question instead.
The goddesses attempted to bribe Paris. Hera, queen of Olympus, told Paris she would grant him power to rule the world. Athena, goddess of war and wisdom, promised to make him a great strategist in battle.
Aphrodite, goddess of love, trumped them both, offering Paris the love of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world (never mind that Helen was married to the king of Sparta at the time). Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite, and she helped him elope with Helen to Troy, launching the Trojan War.
Aphrodite used golden apples again to help a mortal named Melanion marry the brilliant athlete Atalanta. Atalanta had pledged to marry only if a suitor beat her in a foot race. At Aphrodite’s instruction, as Melanion and Atalanta raced, he threw a golden apple ahead of her whenever he fell behind. Each time, Atalanta stopped to pick the apple up, and she lost the race.
A VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT of apples, fresh or baked, is healthy, beautiful, and delicious. To make that gift really hit home, be sure to buy local.
There are plenty of crisp New England apples available at orchards, farm stands, or stores. Check out our Orchard Finder to see which ones are still open at this time of year, or be sure to choose New England-grown apples at your favorite store.