Food Facts & Lore

Of Apples

DNA analysis places the origins of apples in the beautiful mountains of Kazakhstan. They share their biological makeup with plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, pears and roses.

The apple’s DNA is so particular that scientists are currently contemplating encoding data in an apple via specific DNA markers. The complex method is promising. It is estimated that not only can an astronomical number of bytes of data be stored in this manner, but it would also outlast all current formats by thousands of years. This, as you might imagine, may give a whole new meaning to the phrase, “The dog ate my homework!”

The apple is one of the oldest cultivated fruits. The Greeks and Egyptians were grafting and exploring genetic manipulations thousands of years ago. The apple is the most depicted fruit in art and literature. It is one of the most mentioned fruits in ancient texts and mythology. The Bible and the “forbidden fruit” come to mind, but the apple is not associated with sin or religious texts only. In some Old-World cultures, it was associated with choice. There is good reason for this, though it is a little-known aspect of the fruit’s long history.

19th and 20th-century Great Britain was the hub of apple cultivation. Historians report that in England, more precisely at Congresbury, it was customary to sub-divide and auction off land parcels. The placement of each parcel was carved unto an apple. Each apple was then placed in a bag, to be drawn at random.

Another common notion that comes to mind when contemplating the apple is the popular saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This expression first appeared in print in 1866. The famous collection of Middle Eastern folk tales, “The Arabian Nights,” (circa 9th-century CE) refers to a magic apple capable of curing all human illnesses. In Norse mythology, apples were said to provide immortality. Of course, this gift was not available to the common man or woman.

In 1851, British Pomology expert (from the French, pomme, for apple) Robert Hogg wrote: “There is no fruit, in temperate climes, so universally esteemed and so extensively cultivated, nor is there any which is so closely identified with the social habits of the human species, as the apple”. A sentiment shared by growers and connoisseurs in the Old-World aw well as in America.

The apple may not make us immortal, but it has well-established health benefits and it is the most iconic fruit of modern civilization. Every bite is a bite of a very long and fantastic history.