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Apples are the fruit of a tree of the genus Malus[?], which is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae), and have been cultivated throughout recorded history. The wild ancestor of the apple was probably a tree still found in Kazakhstan, Malus sieversii (which has no common name). Researchers are working with M. sieversii, which is resistant to many diseases and pests, in order to create a hardier domestic apple.

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Although the "fruit" of Genesis is not identified, the apple is mentioned in the Bible exactly ten times: in Deuteronomy, Psalms and Proverbs (originating the phrase "apple of your eye" in English); Song of Songs, Joel and Zechariah. The assumption that the fruit that Adam and Eve ate was an apple can probably be attributed to its portrayal in artistic renderings of the fall from Eden.

Apples were very important in many ancient cultures, including Norse, Roman and Greek beliefs. See Pleiades and Idun for examples.

More recently, apples have been an important food in all cooler climates. To a greater degree than other tree fruit, except possibly citrus, apples store for months while still retaining much of their nutitive value. Winter apples, picked in late fall and stored just above freezing in a cellar or "fruit room" have been an important food in Europe and the USA since the 1800s.

Apple Varieties

There are over 7,500 known varieties of apples. The most common is M. sylvestris, which is grown commercially and is one of the most important fruits in temperate climates. It is believed to have been native to the Caucasus Mountains[?], originally.

Among the most common commercial apple cultivars are the "Red Delicious[?]", "Golden Delicious", "Winesap[?]", "Jonathan", "McIntosh", and "Gala[?]". The "Granny Smith[?]" is also somewhat popular, though tarter than the others; as such, it makes a good cooking apple. It is a light speckled green and looks somewhat like the "Golden Delicious"; it is the apple used in the picture for the Apple label which produces CDs by The Beatles. Another noted variety, at least in Britain, is the "Cox's Orange Pippin". Fuji apples[?], which require a warmer climate, are popular for eating in Australia.

Tastes in apples vary from one person to another and have changed over time. Modern apples are, as a rule, sweeter than older varieties. To perhaps a greater degree than other produce, varieties are chosen for appearance, ease of shipping, ease of storage, ease of production, and acceptable flavor to the average person. Many unusual and locally important varieties with their own unique flavor and appearance are out there to discover.

The Excelsior Experiment Station of the University of Minnesota has, since the 1930s, introduced a steady progression of important hardy apples that are widely grown, both commercially and by backyard orchardists, throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. Its most important introductions have included Haralson, which is the most widely cultivated apple in Minnesota, Wealthy, Honeygold, and Honeycrisp. The sweetness and texture of Honeycrisp have been so popular with consumers that Minnesota orchards have been cutting down their established, productive trees to make room for it, a heretofore unheard of practice.

Growing Apples

Starting an Orchard

Apple orchards are established by planting two or three year old trees. These small trees are usually purchased from a nursery where they are produced by grafting[?]. First, a rootstock is produced either as a seedling or cloned using tissue culture or layering. This is allowed to grow for a year. Then, a small section of branch called a scion is obtained from a mature apple tree of the desired variety. The upper stem and branches of the rootstock are cut away and replaced with the scion. In time, the two sections grow together and produce a healthy tree.

Rootstocks affect the ultimate size of the tree. While many rootstocks are available to commercial grower, those sold to homeowners who want just a few trees are usually one of two varieities: a standard seedling rootstock that gives a full-size tree, or a semi-dwarf rootstock that produces a somewhat smaller tree. Dwarf rootstocks are generally more susceptible to damage from wind and cold.

Some trees are produced with a dwarfing "interstem" between a standard rootstock and the tree, resulting in two grafts.

After the small tree is planted in the orchard, it must grow for 3-5 years before it will bear sizable amounts of fruit.


Apples are relatively indifferent to soil conditions and will grow in a wide range of pH values and fertility levels. They do require some protection from the wind and should not be planted in low areas that are prone to late spring frosts.


The trees are susceptible to a number of fungal and bacterial diseases and insect pests. Nearly all commercial orchards pursue an aggressive program of chemical sprays to maintain high fruit quality, tree health, and high yields. A trend in orchard management is the use of IPM or Integrated Pest Management[?], which reduces needless spraying when pests are not present.

Among the most serious disease problems are fireblight, a bacterial disease, and [[cedar-apple rust] and black spot[?], two fungal diseases.

The plum curlico[?] is the most serious insect pest.

Apples are difficult to grow organically, though a few orchards have done so with commercial success, using disease-resistant varieties and the very best cultural controls.


Most mature trees typically bear 5-10 bushels of apples each year. Apples are harvested using three-point ladders that are designed to fit amongst the branches. A few varieties, left unpruned, will grow to be extremely large, causing them to bear a great deal of fruit that it is almost impossible to harvest. Dwarf trees will bear about 3-5 bushels of fruit per year.

Varieties vary in their yield and the ultimate size of the tree, even when grown on the same rootstock.


Today, more than half of all the apples sold commercially in the United States are grown in Washington state. This may change. Imported apples from New Zeland and other more temperate areas are competing with domestic production and increasing each year.


Apples can be canned, juiced, and/or fermented to produce cider, vinegar, and pectin. Distilled, apple cider produces the spirits Applejack and Calvados.

Apples are an important ingredient in many winter desserts, for example apple pie, apple crumble[?] and apple cake[?]. They are often eaten baked[?] or stewed[?], and they can also be dried and re-consitituted (soaked in water, alcohol or some other liquid) for later use. Pureed apples are generally known as apple sauce.

Cultural aspects In some cultures, the apple is a symbol of immortality, love or sexuality. The Greek hero Heracles had to find the Hesperides' golden apples as one of his Twelve Labors. Another Greek mythological figure, Paris, had to give a golden apple (which came from the goddess of discord, Eris) to the most beautiful goddess, indirectly causing the Trojan War, while Atalanta was distracted during a race by three golden apples thrown for that purpose by a suitor, Hippomenes. In ancient Greece, throwing an apple at a person's bed was an invitation for sexual intercourse. Celtic mythology includes a story about Conle[?] who receives an apple which feeds him for a year but also makes him irresistibly desire fairyland. Another story claims that an apple peeled that is one continuous ribbon can be thrown behind a woman's shoulder and it will land in the shape of the future husband's initials. [[Denmark Danish]] folklore says that apples wither around adulterers. In some places, dunking for apples is a traditional Halloween activity; this derives from Druidic divination methods. Apples are said to increase a woman's chances of conception as well as remove birthmarks when rubbed on the skin. They are commonly considered healthy, leading to the proverb an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

See also

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