Food Facts & Lore

Apple, Apple, Apple

Next to the pumpkin, the apple is the most iconic Autumn fruit in America. Varieties abound this time of year and displays overflow with choices in grocery and natural foods stores. Apple pie is a given. We love fresh apples in our pies but prefer canned pumpkin. Let’s face it, carving a pumpkin is a fun tradition but very few of us ever said, “We’re going to chop, seed and purée fresh pumpkins this afternoon. Join us!”

As far as a good, healthy grab-and-go fruit option, bananas outsell apples but not by much. Contrary to popular belief, and the prominence of caramel apple recipe variations popping up in Facebook feeds between September first and Halloween, Americans prefer their apples plain and quartered please. We also prefer apples with peanut butter, not caramel. And children are more likely to eat an apple served with cheese than on its own.

The first apple nursery on American soil was in Flushing, New York. It opened in 1730. The first American-grown apple export took place in 1768. London was among the destinations and included the Benjamin Franklin residence. America’s oldest apple tree also resided in New York; Manhattan to be precise. It was planted in 1647 and produced reliably until 1866, when a train went off track and crushed it.

The odds of an apple tree living that long are not unrealistic. When thinking of an orchard, we imagine well-groomed, miniature trees. Plant variety is a factor, but pruning and deliberate growth control account for this in commercial applications. Left to their own whims, apple trees can grow well beyond 40 feet and live 100 years or more.

According to archeological finds, we’ve been consuming apples since 6500 BC, probably longer. Apples grew in abundance between the Black and Caspian Sea. Except for the crabapple, this is the origin of most of our own apples.

Candied apples were initially common to Arab countries, where fruit was candid to help preserve it. Kraft Foods invented and popularized the caramel apple in the 1950’s. The caramel apple machine was patented in 1960 by uncle-nephew team William and Vito Raimondi, of Chicago, Illinois.

Finally, tart apples, especially Granny Smith, are said to be the ideal candidate for a caramel coating, offering the proper balance of crispness, sweetness, tartness and saltiness.