OUTSIDE: Apple Knowledge

Published 12:34 pm Thursday, September 30, 2021

By Steve Roark

With autumn comes the nostalgia of the apple harvest, a fruit whose history goes back a long way.  Legend and art have made the Tree of Knowledge that led to the downfall of Adam and Eve an apple, but the Bible only refers to a fruit. What follows is more apple knowledge of this famous fruit than you probably care to know.

Apples were first brought to America from England in 1629 by Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop.   The first apples probably came from the trees Winthrop planted in Boston, from which “ten fair pippins” (apples) were picked in 1639.

Beer was not always America’s favorite alcoholic beverage.  During the Colonial Era, hard apple cider was the drink of choice, often the only choice. It was relatively easy to make, and there was an abundance of apples available.  In Europe hard cider goes back for centuries, being a favorite of the Celts.  John Adams (President Number 2) drank cider for breakfast to soothe his stomach.

According to legend, Sir Isaac Newton began formulating the principle of gravity when clunked on the head by an apple while sleeping under the tree.  He started pondering why thing fall down instead of up, and decided it was gravity.  Brilliant!

The U.S. produces 10 billion pounds of apples per year, half of which are grown in Washington state. There are more than 7000 apple varieties, but only eight account for 80% of total U.S. production (Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Rome, Jonathan, York, and Stayman). Each American consumes an average of 20 pounds of fresh apples per year.  Sounds healthy, but Europeans consume 46 pounds.  Speaking of health, an apple a day keeps the doctor away because it is high in fiber and low in sodium and cholesterol.  It keeps the dentist away because its fibrous texture accelerates salivary action, which helps cleanse teeth.  Chewing an apple also exercises the gums, teeth and facial muscles.  There are 80 calories in a medium sized apple.

Johnny Appleseed was one John Chapman and became an American legend with the image of randomly spreading apple seeds across the land.   Truth is he planted nurseries across the land, built fences around each one to protect them from livestock, then left the nursery in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares. John returned every year or two to tend the nursery.  He was a champion of land conservation, and so deserves the fame.

“You’re the apple of my eye” is a romantic metaphor that goes way back to the ancient Anglo-Saxons, who believed that the pupil of the eye was a solid globe, just like an apple.  The word “aeppel” meant both “eye” and “apple”.  Since the pupil of the eye (vision) is priceless, the term came to mean something or someone held very dear.