WESTFIELD, NJ — Apples aren’t just good gifts for teachers.

Apples have long been associated with good health. Such was especially the case from the late 1700s into the early 1900s when people would decorate the fruit with greenery and various spices then give the finished product as a gift, New Jersey-based food historian Judith Krall-Russo said at a presentation at the Westfield Memorial Library recently.

“This was very much done in England and Scotland and also in our country in New England in earlier times,” Krall-Russo said. “It would be given for good fortune and good health.”

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While the apple would always be the center of the gift, a variety of items could be used for the decorations, said Krall-Russo, who had decorated an apple herself with cranberries, a pine needle and spices.

“It would always be an apple. It would always have greenery in it, and it would always be decorated with spices,” she said. “Cloves are important because you can stick them in. There could be some grains, different dried fruits such as raisins.”

The best part, Krall-Russo said, is that if properly prepared, an apple that would otherwise rot becomes an aromatic pleasure.

“You can leave this there and it would just dehydrate,” she said, while holding her decorated apple. “And it would give off a fragrance. It doesn’t smell rotten.”

The apple tradition was among a series of historic holiday traditions Krall-Grasso detailed for the public at the library presentation in Westfield.

Krall-Grasso lectures across the state on topics ranging from: The Jersey Tomato, Blueberries – New Jersey’s Wonder Fruit and The New Jersey Cranberry, her website says.

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

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