Agri-Stats: Apples


The apple is a pomaceous fruit that grows on a tree. It is in the Rosaceae plant family  and its Latin name is Malus domestica Borkh. Apples are one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples.

The wild ancestor of Malus domestica is Malus sieversii. Is known where it is native as “alma”; in fact, the city where it is thought to originate is called Alma-Ata, or “father of the apples”. This apple species is still found wild in the mountains of Central Asia. All of the apple varieties known today are direct descendent of the Malus sieversii. 

Humans on the Silk Road passed through the mountains and apple forests and the apple across trade routes and on the seas that connected the Silk Road to the rest of the world. 

Apple pips produce wildly variable trees. As humans and animals travelled, pips were dropped and wild seedlings grew. Natural selection adapted apples best suits to their local surroundings and subsequently wildly different apples go throughout Asia and Europe. 

In order to control for variability, new growth must be grafted. The knowledge of apple production and grafting traveled over the same routes as the apple. The apple tree was probably the earliest tree to be cultivated, and apples have remained an important food in all cooler climates. Apples do not flower in tropical climates because they have a chilling requirement.

The Romans liked the apple and had more varieties in cultivation than any other fruit. In the 1100s, the Cistercian order of monks spread their abbeys and the apple-growing knowledge across Scotland, Europe, Scandinavia and the eastern Mediterranean. The apple of the Byzantine Empire in Eastern Europe survived the Muslim incursion. By the 1200s, apples were grown with increasing frequency throughout Europe. It became much beloved in Europe and its explorers and colonists didn’t leave home without it. The Eastern seaboard and south America contains many remnants of early old European varieties 

One source claims apples first came to the U.S. in 1607, yet, Supposedly, the first US apple orchard was said to be near Boston in 1625. Obviously, different areas of apple production claim bragging rights. 

Supposedly, U.S. apples were first used for making cider at the time. As can be imagined, the apples used were fairly bitter as compared to what we eat today. (Doherty, 2018) Cider, beer, wine, ale, spirits, etc. were consumed in large quantities. because water in colonial times was not potable. In order to stay hydrated, people had to drink processed liquids. In fact, Colonial Americans drank roughly three times as much as modern Americans. Reverend Michael Alan, who illustrated and helped research the book, Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History, by author, Steven Grasse, says simply: “From morning until night, people in the 18th century drank. (Cargill, 2018)

“Have you ever heard about the tale of Johnny Appleseed? The real-life Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman, collected seeds from cider mills and spread apple-growing to the midwestern U.S. – but the real purpose for Chapman’s apples was for alcohol. The bitter apples grown from Johnny Appleseed’s seeds were mainly used to create cider and Applejack.” (Doherty, 2018)

Apples store for months while still retaining much of their nutritive value. Until the 20th century, farmers stored apples in frostproof cellars during the winter for use or to sell.

Add info about the impact of cold storage to the industry

In the 20th century, irrigation projects in Washington state allowed the development of the multibillion dollar industry.

In the 1990s, the Pacific Northwest lost much of its apple production when China planted large acreages to provide cheap apples to the Pacific Rim.The Chinese government invested heavily in infrastructure and today, they are the principal supplier of apple concentrate to the world. Because of little U.S. trade protection, this has had a major impact on the U.S. apple industry. China now produces about 35% of the world’s supply.The U.S. is nowthe second largest producer with about 7.5% of the production. Should we say that it is as “Chinese as apple pie”.

Books and References 

Doherty, Michael. Learn The Fascinating History Behind These Five Common Fruits. June 18, 2018.