Monday, January 3, 2011

Apple #500: Apples

I have reached my 500th entry! What better way to celebrate a significant Daily Apple anniversary than by talking about apples?

Recently I've been enjoying a re-found appreciation for apples.  First of all, they're portable.  You can put them in your lunch bag or shoulder bag and they won't turn to mush in there.  You don't need a utensil to eat it, there's no peel to worry about like with a banana, you can hold it in your hand the whole time you eat it.

Best of all, of course, is the actual eating.  Biting into a crisp apple is incredibly satisfying.  If it's juicy and sweet with some tanginess about the edges, mm-mm.  Nothing else like it.  I especially enjoy eating apples while reading a book.  The two activities somehow become synonymous and equally delicious.

Boy, you can just about smell those apples, can't you?
(Photo from Luna Cafe)

  • The apple tree originated in an area between the Caspian and the Black Sea.
  • Based on archeological evidence, researchers believe that people have been eating apples since at least 6500 B.C.
  • Apples were introduced to England when the Romans conquered it in the first century B.C.
  • In Shakespeare's day, apples were often served roasted with caraway seeds.
  • Trees grown in the colonies in the 1600s produced very few apples because there were no honey bees. Colonies of bees were shipped to the colonies in 1622. By the 1640s, nearly every landowner in the colonies had an apple orchard.

Some apple trees live hundreds of years. This man is Jack Turner, and this apple tree was planted in Arizona in 1912. There are also lots of orchards still growing apples that were originally planted in colonial times.
(Photo from Native Seeds)

  • George Washington didn't just have cherry trees; he had apple trees too.
  • Around this time, apples were called "winter banana" or "melt-in-the-mouth."
  • Newton Pippin apples were the first apples exported from America in 1768. Some were sent to Benjamin Franklin in London.
  • Johnny Appleseed traveled the country distributing apple seeds he collected from cider mills in the early 1800s.  He planted seeds and started nurseries for apples as well as herbs and other vegetables. He killed no animals, chopped down no trees, and carried neither gun nor knife. He traveled for 40 years and covered an estimated 10,000 square miles.
  • Apples were introduced to the Pacific Northwest when a young lady at a farewell banquet for a certain Captain Simmons slipped apple seeds into his pocket and told him to plant the seeds in the wilderness. He did as she told him and planted the seeds at Fort Vancouver in Washington.

Areas in red are where Johnny Appleseed is thought to have traveled
(Map from Marc Levitt)

Tree & Fruit Facts
  • Apple trees are in the rose family.  The blossoms resemble wild rose blossoms.

Apple blossom
(Photo by Age Kotyk at The Kotyk Report)

Wild rose
(Photo by Stoner at Tech Support Guy)

  • It takes 50 leaves soaking up enough sunlight and rain to produce one apple.
  • It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.
  • Most of an apple's fragrance cells are concentrated in the skin.
  • Fresh apples float. This is because 25% of their volume is air. 
  • Apples ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than if they were refrigerated.

Nutrition -- the Real Story

Biting into an apple -- hooray!
(Photo from The Essential Skills)

  • Lots of sites say that apples are good at lowering blood pressure.  Well, yes, but this is not some magical property limited only to apples.  Studies have shown that diets high in any fruits and vegetables help reduce people's blood pressure.  Reducing saturated fats also helps.  So does regular exercise, getting adequate amounts of sleep, etc., etc., all the stuff you've heard a million times over. 
  • People also claim, by the way, that apple cider vinegar is some miracle home remedy for high blood pressure and other ailments such as high cholesterol and arthritis.  The truth is, there is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims.  Apple cider vinegar has hardly any nutritional value at all. People say that the acetic acid in the vinegar does marvelous things, but in truth, it gets broken down by the acid in the stomach and would therefore be rendered ineffectual.
  • In general, there's no magic bullet for any health issue.  Anybody who tries to tell you so is lying.  It's important to eat a variety of foods, leaning of course toward the healthy side of the spectrum.

Nutrition, or Eat the Peel
  • All that said, apples do provide some nutritional goodies to the body.
  • Compared to other fruits, apples aren't jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, but they do provide a fairly good dose of vitamin C, about 10% of your daily requirement.
  • Almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin.  Peeling the skin, therefore, takes away most of the vitamin C.
  • Apples are also a good source of fiber, and again, it's the peel that contributes most of the fiber.
  • The pectin present in apples is also beneficial.  It helps control insulin levels -- helpful to diabetics -- and by lowering insulin production, it also helps reduce levels of cholesterol.
  • Apples contain two antioxidants in particular, phenolics and quercetin.  These antioxidants may be what enables apples to help people who eat apples enjoy lower rates of lung and colon cancer.
  • Again, the antioxidants are in the peel, so if you want to get these goodies, don't discard the peel.
  • If you don't have a toothbrush, eat an apple.  Eating an apple after the meal helps clean the teeth and massage the gums.

Remove the peel and you remove most of the nutritional benefit of an apple
(Photo from

    Baking & Eating Varieties
    Some apples are better for baking and some are better for eating out-of-hand. For baking, choose a variety with a lower sugar content and that's more tart than what you might usually eat. Sugary apples tend to get mushy and lose their flavor when baked.

    These are just a few of the varieites of apples that are commonly available. If you want to see lots more varieties, check out this poster from Pgris.
    (Photo from

    • Baking:
        • Cortland: slightly tart, excellent for baking, won't brown quickly so good for cheese plates
        • Golden Delicious: sweet and mellow but still good for baking
        • Granny Smith: tart or even sour, best when paired with sweeter apples
        • Ida Red: tangy, flesh is sometimes pink, great for applesauce
        • Jonathan: tart and slightly spicy, a long-time favorite
        • Jonagold: blend of Golden Delicious and Jonathan, also ok for eating
        • Rome: perfectly round, firm flesh, one of the best for baking
        • Winesap: juicy and crisp, some say it's ok for eating but I thought it was too tart
    • Eating:
        • McIntosh: juicy and crisp, tends to break down in cooking but good for sauces, doesn't keep well
        • Gala: crisp and sweet but not overly so, my favorite for eating
        • Honeycrisp: honey-sweet and also tart, also ok for baking
        • Macoun: sweet, with bright red skin and juicy flesh
        • Lady: perhaps the oldest variety still grown, sweet-tart but tiny, ok for baking too
        • Pink Lady: developed in New Zealand, crisp and tart at first with sweet finish
        • Fuji: developed in Japan, aromatic, very sweet, very juicy, improves with age
        • Braeburn: also from New Zealand, crisp and juicy, also ok for baking
        • Red Delicious: large, brilliant red with five knobs at base, very sweet and no tartness
    • Either:
        • Spy: large, sweet-tart, red skin streaked with yellow
        • Pippin: juicy but tart and crisp
        • Empire: cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious

    This little girl, Cate, is holding a little apple, a Lady. Lady is one of the oldest varieties still being grown today.
    (Photo from this week for dinner)

    Growing & Commerce
    • About 10,000 varieties of apples are grown around the world.
    • About 7,000 varieties are grown in the US.
    • Only about 25 to 30 varieties are wild.  Most of those are crab apples.
    • The only country that grows more apples than the US is China.  In 2006, they grew about 6 times the number of apples as the US -- 24 million metric tons in China vs 4 million metric tons in the US.
    • Apples are grown in all 50 states.  They are grown and sold commercially in 36.
    • The top apple producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
    • Almost one out of every four apples harvested in the United States is exported.

    China grows way more apples than anybody else. Interesting that one of our favorite apple varieties is from Japan, which isn't even on this list.
    (Graphic from DailyMe)

    A Few Final Facts
    • Exactly when and why people starting bobbing for apples is not known for sure.  But a book in 1902 says that after bobbing for them, you should peel the apple, pass it three times in the direction of the sun around your head and then throw it over your shoulder. The shape it assumes is the shape of the first letter of your true love's name.  That's right. The apple knows these things.
    • It probably wasn't being hit on the head with an apple that caused Sir Isaac Newton to think about the force of gravitation.  Most likely he only observed an apple falling from a tree.
    • When the NASA space shuttle went into space in May 2010, they took a piece of Newton's apple tree on the shuttle with them, where it experienced zero gravity.
    • Steve Jobs may have named his first Apple computer after the apple orchard and farm where he'd worked the previous summer.  Certainly the very first logo showed Isaac Newton sitting under his apple tree. But that was thought to be too complicated, so it was changed to the more simple rainbow apple with a bite out of it.
    • The tree in the Garden of Eden is only identified as a "fruit" tree.  It was a painting made in 1470 that suggested it was an apple tree.  Historians think that actually, based on the agriculture of the time, it probably would have been apricot.

    Hugo Van Der Goes' The Fall of Man, the first place where the Tree of Knowledge was depicted as an apple tree.  How different would things have been if he'd painted an apricot tree instead?
    (Image from

    University of Illinois Extension, Apple Nutrition, Apple Facts NutritionData, Apples, raw, with skin
    A 2 Z of Health and Beauty, Apple Nutrition Facts
    Listen to Your Mother: An Apple a Day--Not a Cheeseburger--Keeps the Doctor Away, ScienceDaily, April 17, 1997
    Beth Fontenot, The sour truth about apple cider vinegar, Nutrition Forum, Nov-Dec 1997
    What's Cooking America, Apples - History and Legends of Apples
    Vermont Apples, A Brief History of Apples, Baking with Apples 
    Washington Apple Country, The Fruit (varieties)
    Peggy Trowbridge Filippone,, Apple Varieties
    Lester Haines, Isaac Newton's apple tree off to spaaaace, The Register, May 11, 2010
    The Apple Museum, The name "Apple Computer" 


    1. Congratulations on your 500th post, Apple Lady! What an incredible achievement!

    2. where can I buy the poster with tons of apples on it???

    3. Links are provided in the caption under the photo.


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