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Crunch Bunch

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Have you ever met anyone who doesn't like apples? They're hard to come by, these genetic anomalies. Maybe these apple haters have only the Red (un)Delicious to blame. With its mealy flesh, soggy bite and waxy, chemical-flavored skin, the lamest excuse for an apple could be wreaking more havoc than we imagine.

The good news is that orchards are full of apples that blow the Red Delicious away. Below, a subjective guide to apples likely to show up at a market near you. Hopefully, your own notes will soon replace mine. Chomp, chomp.

Empire: A cross between Macintosh and Red Delicious. She's sweet-tart, this one. Her white flesh, set against a green-scarlet thin skin coating, is not too soft, not too hard on the tooth. A great candidate for applesauce or pie, and I'm thinking how fab she'd be dipped in caramel.

Fuji: A perfectly nice apple, with a pretty pinkish blush, a medium crunch and a delicate sweetness. Not boring, but not the most exciting variety, either. I've heard it called "less assertive" and "laid back." A favorite among kids and less adventurous eaters.

Gala: Another winner for the kids; in fact, it's so sweet, I'd liken it to pink bubble gum. Fruit forward, soft/medium bite and lunch bag-friendly size. Try it in apple pancakes for Saturday morning cartoons.

Jonathan: A tomboy apple. On the outside, she's a beautiful scarlet red, and her skin is delicate and easily bruised. On the inside, her flesh is firm and strong. Take a bite, and you'll get citrus at the tip of your tongue. Pick her as a palate cleanser. Apple sorbet, perhaps?

Winesap: She's the mean girl at school who also happens to be the cheerleading captain. You love to look at her beautiful mahogany skin, complemented by her almost snow-white flesh. You take a bite, and you can't believe you've bitten into a lemon. Her flesh is so tart it almost makes you want to pucker. Her firm bite and acidic nature could make her a feisty date for fatty fondue.

Kim O'Donnel, the host of What's Cooking on washingtonpost.com, tests all the recipes so you don't have to. Send questions and comments to kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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