Later there’s Macoun, Baldwin, Northern Spy, and King David, and after that come Winesap and Black Twig and Mutsu and Mutsu’s Mother. And there are lots of others.
from Applesauce Season
written by Eden Ross Lipson
illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Roaring Brook Press, 2009
My girls didn’t eat from those little (recyclable) glass jars of baby food. At the time, I thought the companies put stuff in there that my girls didn’t need and probably shouldn’t have: sugar, salt, xanthan gum (a thickener), or guar gum (another thickener). I was probably right. It was not a big deal to cook some carrot circles and mash them with a fork. Or thaw out a few peas. Even though I’ve never been known to eat a banana, I mashed them up and gave them to my babies.
One of the first foods I gave my girls, even before they grew teeth, I called apple-mash. I peeled and cored an apple, cooked it in a little water, and used my potato smasher to smooth out the lumps. The girls loved apple-mash.
When they got bigger, I’d slice an apple and replace the core in each half with peanut butter. Another winner.
We all liked apple cider. Still do! But sweet cider, of course, not the hard kind.
Hard cider is sweet cider that has been allowed to ferment for a few weeks. It’s about half as strong as wine. If the fermented cider is frozen, and then the ice removed, the resulting applejack can measure as much as 66 proof.
Most apples were used to make cider back in the in the Colonial days. If left to their own devises, apples are unique in all the world. Each apple, like each person, would be its own distinct variety with its own distinct gene pool. If you saved the seeds from an apple that you really liked, then planted them, you’d get a different kind of tree from each seed that grew. Those seeds, if you planted them, would all be different, too. The scientific term is heterozygosity, “having dissimilar pairs of genes for any hereditary characteristic.” dictionary.com
The only way to assure that a particular type of apple grows is to graft a slip of wood from a desirable tree and notch it into the trunk of another. If the graft “takes,” the fruit produced on the new wood growing from that juncture will share the characteristics of the more desirable parent (def. adapted from The Botany of Desire. Michael Pollan. Random House, 2001).
Apples were plentiful thanks in large measure to John Chapman, better know to us all as Johnny Appleseed. He was a real person, born in Leominster, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1774. He died sometime between March 18, 1845, and summer of the same year (depending on the source you are consulting) in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Johnny Appleseed collected seeds from apple mills in the fall as he made his way from Massachusetts to Indiana, and back again. He’d plant the seeds to raise seedlings and sold them in the spring, usually for 3-5 cents each. The resulting fruit were mostly spitters, only good for making cider.
But a land grant in the Northwest Territory (Ohio, in those days before statehood) required a settler to set out at least fifty apple or pear trees as a condition of the deed. The earliest immigrants to America brought grafted Old World apple trees with them, but they generally failed to thrive in their new environment.
Johnny had the uncanny ability to sense where the next wave of Pioneers would settle. He’d arrive 2-3 years ahead, plant his saplings and wait. Invariably, the settlers showed up and bought his little trees. Johnny moved on, bought another tract of land, and everyone was happy.
According to Michael Pollan, apple trees originated in Kazakhstan. Wild apple trees are still found there. Travelers on the silk route may have chosen a tasty apple or two to take with them, depositing the seeds along their way. Wildlings sprouted, and the rest is the apple’s genetic history.
Here are a baker’s dozen of interesting apple facts (mostly) from https://web.extension.illinois.edu/apples/facts.cfm
- Apples are a member of the rose family.
- The crabapple is the only apple native to North America.
- There are 7,500 varieties of apples in the world.
- 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in all 50 states, but only 100 varieties are grown commercially in 36.
- The science of apple growing is called pomology.
- Apple trees take four to five years to produce their first fruit.
- It takes the energy from 50 leaves to produce one apple.
- One apple has five grams of fiber.
- Americans ate about 17.7 pounds of fresh apples per capita in 2018. (An average apple is about 1/3 of a pound, so we'll each eat about 6 apples per year.)
- Apple blossom is the state flower of Michigan.
- One of George Washington's hobbies was pruning his apple trees.
- Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since at least 6500 B.C.E.
- Honeycrisp, one of my favorites, was developed in Minnesota and introduced to the market in 1990.
-—stay curious! (and eat well)