Picking Unripe Apples For Making Apple Pectin

When I took my children for a walk today, on a hunch I brought along a plastic shopping bag. I was glad I did, because in several spots on the sidewalk there were tiny green apples. We came home with about four pints - a good beginning.

Why would I want those super sour apples that fall from the tree early and are usually looked upon merely as mess makers? So I can make apple pectin!

Homemade apple pectin is:

* Ideal for jam and jelly making; it allows you to use less sugar than if you use ordinary store bought pectin.

* Fights cancer; a study by The University of Georgia found that apple pectin may help treat prostrate and other cancers, reducing cancer cells as much as 40 percent. Pectin may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

*  Is good for cholesterol, according to The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

* Helps relieve diarrhea.

* Apple pectin has even been used to combat radiation in Russia.

You can learn how to make apple pectin here.

The best apples for making apple pectin are those that are very sour - ideally unripe apples or crab apples. If you have your own apple trees, this is no problem at all; at this time of year, as the fruit begins growing larger, overcrowded fruits fall to the ground and are perfect for making pectin. But if you don't have your own apple trees, you'll need to get more creative. You can save all the throw-away parts of ripe apples you eat (including the pits and peels), but you'll get better pectin if you look around for apple trees in your neighborhood that have fallen, unripe fruit.

Any fruit that's on the sidewalk is free for the pickin'. Typically, fruit found in public areas, such as parks, are okay to pick, too - though it's a good idea to check with the local government first. If you want to, you can even knock on people's doors and ask to pick up all the little apples in their yards. Most people will be glad to have you do so - it will save them the trouble of sweeping them up themselves. Just be sure to pick up all the fruit, discarding any rotten pieces in your own compost bin. (The fruit doesn't have to be perfect, but it shouldn't be soft or spoiling.)

Only gathering a few at a time? No worries; just freeze the apples whole (or the apple scraps, as is) until you have enough to make a batch of pectin.

Happy picking!

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