National Eat A Red Apple Day!
Mmmm...Malus Domestica! (Aka apples)
The mind conjures up thoughts of crispy sweetness available in all manners of variety. But where exactly does our love of apples come from, and what is their seedy (pun intended) past?
Let’s start with the basics. Apples grow in climates that are predominately cold and wet during the winter
months. Looking back in history, one can trace its origins to both Europe and Asia. Early American settlers initially brought apple tree seeds from overseas. Eventually, many of these apple seeds were carefully cross produced using selective breeding. They are called “Cultivars” that derive from rootstock grafts. The selection of these apples that we see today is, in fact, mainly due to this finite process.
Some well-known names are Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Red Delicious, Braeburn, Cameo, and Crispin. Crab apples are the only ones native to North America. Technically they were the late bloomers (last pun I promise) when it came to apple cultivating. *China, still to this day, produces about half of the entire world's crop. There are now approximately 7500 cultivars in existence. Source: FAOSTAT of the United Nations.
Apples are amazing! No, indeed, they are.
You see, apples have been romancing us for eons. If you look closely, apples can are in all aspects of culture, history, and art. Their purpose and origin were often seen as something of a mystery or forbidden. The Christian texts that refer back to the Garden of Eden referencing the struggles of Adam and Eve is an excellent example of this. Alexander the Great has first found apples in Kazakhstan in 328 BCE. In Norse & German mythology, apples are said to bring youthfulness and fertility.
The Greeks have also shared a penchant for this delightful yet powerful fruit. Greece is re-known for stories of love, discord, and war. In particular, a goddess named Eris was snubbed at a particular stately wedding. She was so upset that she was excluded; she took her anger into her own hands. She threw an apple into the wedding party out of spite.
Apples are also seen as sacred, especially to Aphrodite “The Goddess of Love.” So next time you have your heart set on someone special, try throwing an apple to them as a declaration of your feelings. If they catch it, then your love is accepted.
Yes, there is romance, and intrigue
surrounding this (often called) forbidden fruit. One cannot doubt that. But, what else is known about their seedy past?
As mentioned in the book, The New Book of
Apples by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards, talks about the fruit as having a powerful reputation of fertility and immortality. The apples themselves, seeds (known as pips in Europe), and also peels were quite often used to foretell the supposed future. Apple bobbing was another tradition that was introduced in North America by the settlers. A selected girl would be hopeful in seeking out and solidifying her perfect match. Mischief often prevailed to which each betrothed name was secretly written on the underside of the apple. A win would be when Mr. Right’s name was relinquished out of the bucket. Peels were used in such a way that they would be taken off the fruit in a very delicate way. A single unbroken strip would be tossed over the young lady’s shoulder. Depending on which letter the peel formed on the floor would be an indication of who her future husband would be. My guess is that the letter “s” was a popular one.
Apples have always been a tempting tasty treat! We’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” These healthy snacks have hidden gems in them, such as phytochemicals and fiber. They are at the top of the antioxidant food chain and keep bodies moving… (ahem) so to speak.
So you ask yourself.. “What am I waiting for?” I’m going to grow an apple tree or two!” Not so fast. One might think that all is needed is to throw a seed in the ground, water it, and voila! Instant apples. It’s a nice thought, but hey, let’s face it. Not all of us are green thumbs. The truth is keeping stock of these sumptuous sensations is not that simple. Farmers, horticulturists, and arborists, etc. carefully cultivate these gift-giving trees over time.
Apple trees take approximately six to ten years to bear apples. The time span includes that from being a just sprouted seedling to full maturity. Tree height can also be dependent on the time of year it was planted and where. Different regions have different season times.
Once the apples have been picked, they are, of course, gently washed, bagged, and packed for consumption at a nearby produce plant. From there, they are put on a truck and eventually end up in our local grocers.
Now even though apples are readily available pretty much any time of the year, they are mainly, in-demand during two separate seasons. One is the summer (think picnics out on the lawn) and the other during autumn/fall. The latter being quite varied in use throughout family households. In many parts of the world, early autumn begins to display signs of a plentiful harvest. It may also start to feel as if there is a crisp bite to the air. “Crisp” being the buzz word.
Apples are used in so many ways during
this time of year. Depending on the way they are used, eating apples are just another smart way of keeping us warm. A steaming bowl of apple pie, cobbler, or apple crisp can set the tone for kicking off your shoes and snuggling up to the fire. It’s the winter dessert of champions. Pair it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or custard, and you have a match made in heaven!
If you are looking for a more fun and festive approach, then perhaps caramel apples on a stick might do the trick. Some countries coat them in chocolate, marshmallows, nuts, and even crunchy toffee. The UK version uses hot toffee first that has been cooled. The US version uses hot caramel then also cooled. Check out this How To Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egW96VN0-s4.
It is thought that a candy maker by the name of William Kolb in New Jersey (1908) accidentally dropped some of his apples in stick syrup. Perhaps this was the start of neighborhood candy giving in the US Halloween tradition of Trick or Treating.
During the Jewish (Rosh Hashanah) apples are dipped in honey to symbolize the start of a sweet new year. Other ways of ingesting the fruit include:
juice, sauces, cider, spread/jams (A delicious apple cider spread goes lovely
The infatuation with apples has outlasted even the oldest traditions. Today, we are still finding ways to entertain, cook, and celebrate with them. Apples have certainly made their mark. Whatever your use of apples maybe during this fun season, may it bring you belly full of laughs, love, and memories.