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Q. Dear Umbra,

This year I’d like to give something local, seasonal, and sustainable to the cute little goons who come knocking on Halloween. There’s an orchard an hour away by train. I’m planning to get bushels of apples. But how can I give this treat without worrying anyone that I’ve tricked them? Are people still worried about razor blades? I’d hate for the apples to get tossed and go to waste.

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Razorless Rachel
Brooklyn, NY

Bad appleJohnny Appleseed?Photo: tipoyockA. Dearest Rachel,

Halloween began as a Celtic harvest festival, so it is fitting to give apples to the wee costumed revelers showing up at your door. The fruits of your local orchards are a sustainable treat that beat the wrappers off candy. Speaking of, apples don’t come with any packaging apart from their own skin, a great trick for a treat.

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Buying local apples also keeps your carbon footprint small, especially if you’re getting them home via train, bicycle, or headless horseman. Apples contain the flavinoid dihydroxyflavone, which protects neurons, a great way to keep your head on straight and the doctor away. Yet another bonus to your goodie giving, Rachel, is that apples help lower cholesterol. Kids love that.

The average trick or treater receives five to 10 pounds of candy at Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, candy is a wonderful thing. But a bag full of drug store candy is scarier than Freddy Kruger. That kind of commercial sweet is highly processed, making it energy intensive to manufacture. Add in the chemicals used for coloring and flavoring, highly spun high-fructose corn syrup, rainforest-destroying palm oil (palmitate), and individual wrappers and we’re talking nightmare on Elm Street.

Given all those downsides of candy, it seems surprising that apples get such a bad rap. But think back, Rachel. Apples have been on the undesired gift list since the dawn of humans. Eve’s forbidden offering to Adam was a Pandora’s box with seeds. (Though Eve actually gave Adam a mango, if you believe a certain website that sells mangos.) And don’t forget Snow White’s sleep-inducing apple from the witch. But I digress.

As for razors in apples, from what I can tell there is no record of that ever happening. Even candy tampering is more of an urban legend than something to worry about. My fellow advice columnists, Dear Abby and Ann Landers, perpetuated the myth back in the mid-1980s. “Somebody’s child will become violently ill or die after eating poisoned candy or an apple containing a razor blade,” wrote Dear Abby. Goes to show that sometimes even well-regarded advice columnists can be wrong.

But how to assure the trick or treaters that the apples you’re handing out are safe?

You could post an educational sign at your door with photos of the orchard where you picked the apples and a few fun facts about the fruit. For instance, did you know there are about 7,000 apple varieties?

A good costume might help you get your positive apple message across. How about:

  1. One of Adam Sandler’s classic cheap halloween costumes? Just change your tagline to “Now give me some apples!”
  2. A generous, talking apple tree. Apples are the candy of nature. And who doesn’t love a talking tree like this one?
  3. A villain of food! You can hand out local apples and talk about localwashing in a Ronald McDonald costume.

If you’re still worried about apple-giving, Rachel, I wrote about alternatives to candy and plastic toy Halloween treats last year. There’s also the Green Halloween non-food treat list, which includes basic but brilliant suggestions such as acorns, Band-Aids, polished rocks, and whistles. And there’s always Grist’s handy how to green your Halloween guide, for all your holiday planning needs.

Happy Halloween and apple picking, Rachel! Be careful not to get tricked while you’re out getting treats. After all, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.