How many apple cores does it take to kill a person?
I am sorry to put this unsettling thought in your head but it’s always good to be aware of these things.
Apple seeds contain a compound called amygdalin, which is a part of the fruit’s defence system. You may have bitten into a seed accidentally and experienced its intense bitter taste. When amygdalin enters the gut, the gut bacteria convert it to hydrogen cyanide, one of the deadliest poisons. If you swallow the seeds whole, the thick seed coat ensures that it passes out undigested. Even if you chew on a seed, though, you needn’t worry.
An average adult would have to consume 150 to a few thousand crushed seeds (depending on the variety of the apple) to generate enough hydrogen cyanide to risk poisoning. To summarise, death by apple seed is possible only if someone is munching on seeds from 18-20 apples at one go.
Moving on to more morbid stuff, there are several clickbait videos on Instagram and YouTube screaming “waxed apples cause cancer”. Apples have a natural waxy coating that looks like white powder. This is common in many fruits like oranges, pears, plums, etc. To make the fruits look more attractive and improve their shelf life, a layer of wax is usually sprayed on commercially sold fruits. These waxes are made from food-grade substances and are not carcinogens. This claim has been debunked time and again by websites and food safety experts.
The high-pesticide residue on apples is, however, a matter of genuine concern. It can be tackled by rinsing the apples well with water and scrubbing with a soft brush or a cloth. If you find the waxy coating coming in the way of enjoying the flavour of the fruit, by all means peel the apples before eating.
In India, apples are grown mainly in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. In recent years, the Kashmiri apple growers have faced many problems. After the political lockdown of 2019, followed by the pandemic and its impact on apple farmers, more trouble has been brewing for them. According to a February 2021 report in Scroll, the illegal import of Iranian apples is the latest crisis to affect the local apple business.
Afghanistan and India have a zero import duty agreement. This is being exploited, with apples being imported into Afghanistan and then illegally exported to India with Afghan labels, to avoid tax. The Iranian apples, very close in appearance and taste to Kashmiri apples, sell for much less, ruining the market for the local farmers and traders.
Indian apples are in season now. Try and buy them directly from growers via NGOs and trusts that virtually connect farmers to buyers all around the country. This way, we get to buy unwaxed apples at a better price than what is sold in the supermarkets and also help the farmers sell their produce at a decent price. With this season’s box of apples, I am making apple butter—when spread on toast, it feels like I am eating apple pie for breakfast. Another favourite is the Dutch apple cake inspired by the Winkel 43 café in Amsterdam. This cake, which they call apple pie, is stuffed to the gills with apples, redolent of cinnamon and butter.
DUTCH APPLE CAKE
(Adapted from Rachel Allen’s recipe)
Three-fourths cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp salted butter/90g
5 tbsp milk /75ml
Half cup all-purpose flour (maida)
Half cup wholewheat flour (atta)
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
Half tsp baking soda
2 apples, cored and sliced
2 tbsp sugar
Half tsp cinnamon powder
Line a nine-inch round baking tin with parchment paper or grease the base and sides with some butter. Dust the buttered pan with a tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat well with a whisk until thick and mousse-like.
Melt the butter in a small pan. Whisk the milk into the melted butter. Pour the milk butter mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. The wet mixture is ready. Sift the flours, cinnamon, baking powder and soda into a large bowl. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two-three batches, taking care to fold gently and not overmix the batter.
Pour half the batter into the prepared cake tin. Layer with half the apple slices. Pour the remaining batter and top with the rest of the apple slices. Top with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.
Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Unmould the cake and cool for another 15-20 minutes before slicing it.
Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.
Makes around 200g
1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
Peel, core and finely chop the apples.
In a pan, heat the butter and sauté the apples for a couple of minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and two-three tablespoons of water. Cover and cook until the apples are mushy and soft. This will take around 20 minutes, depending on the variety of apples. Mash it well with a wooden ladle. If you prefer a smoother texture, transfer the contents of the pan to a mixer and blend to a smooth puree. Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge. Use over toast, to top a plain muffin or along with a cheese board.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer’s latest book is Everyday Superfoods.