Each year between late July and late October, more than 100 Minnesota-grown varieties of apples are ripe for picking. This year apple development is a couple of weeks late due to our late spring. Now is the normal time for picking Beacon and State Fair Apples, and soon Red Baron and Wealthy apples will be at their peak of ripeness, followed by other such varieties as McIntosh, Sweet Sixteen, Honeygold, Haralson and Regent. Apple connoisseurs enjoy sampling these numerous varieties, each with its own special flavor and texture.

The apple provides a sweet touch that also is healthy and does not hurt the teeth. A medium-size apple about 3 inches in diameter, besides being 85 percent water, has about 70 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrates and traces of many vitamins and minerals. In addition, the mild acid of the apple is effective in cleaning tooth surfaces and leaving a pleasant taste in the mouth.

Scientists believe the earliest apples to be cultivated grew wild, first in the mountains of southwestern Asia, probably in the area between the Black and Caspian seas. The first Minnesota full-sized apple variety to withstand cold winters, bear fruit regularly, and have good keeping qualities and flavor was developed in the 1860s by Peter Gideon, who lived near the south shore of Lake Minnetonka. Gideon's apple was named Wealthy, after his wife, Wealthy Hall. This apple is still widely grown throughout the state.

Jim Gilbert's Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio Sundays at 7:15 a.m. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.