Some might criticize me for this, but i'm that kid that wakes up on June 21st already eagerly anticipating Fall. The scarves, knit sweaters, boots, falling leaves, homecoming, fresh air, and, apples. Yup, apples. Besides pumpkins, apples are the surest fall staple, and make up a good majority of this season's comfort food - apple pie, baked apples, caramel apples, apple cider, and these fun caramelized apple crepes. There's even an activity dedicated just to picking them. With their sweet scent and crisp bite, apples are one of those things that defines Fall for basics everywhere (myself included).
Despite their popularity, here are 7 fun facts you probably didn't know about apples:
1. China produces more apples than the U.S.
While the apple is one of the most popular fruits in the U.S., we are not its top producer. China is first, followed by the U.S., Turkey, Poland and Italy.
2. Apples first and foremost originally used for cider.
Apples, in the U.S. were originally only used for Apple Cider production. When settlers first settled Jamestown, they brought with them apple stems and seeds. They grew a ton of apple trees, but the apples, which got sweeter the more we continued to grow them, were too bitter to snack on and were used to make cider.
Because of health concerns in regards to drinking water, cider was served during most meals. Even children drank the stuff—diluted, of course.
3. Apples were first sold on street corners during the Great Depression.
Today, a fruit vendor's cart wouldn't be complete without the apple. However, this trend began during the Great Depression. During the worst financial crisis in American history, a man by the name of Joseph Sicker became chairman of the Unemployed Relief Committee of the International Apple Growers Association. His answer to unemployment was to sell boxes of apples, at $2.20 a pop, to unemployed men to sell to passerby on street corners.
Every morning the men congregated on 66 Harrison Street in Manhattan, to buy their apples, which they sold for up to 50 cents (prices usually changed depending on vendor). By the end of the day they owed Sicker $1.75 to offset the costs, but it got men back out in the world and working. Economics aside, because global stock trends are not my thing, it's pretty remarkable to think that the Great Depression helped define how we buy fruit today.
4. Only the crabapple is native to North America.
This fact is a personal favorite. The United States produces more than 2,500 types of apples, yet, only the crabapple—arguably the most disrespected apple—is native to North America.
5. It takes 6-10 years for an apple tree to start producing fruit.
Apple picking is the poster activity for Fall Family Time, which means that orchards probably harvest a crap ton of apples for those three weeks out of the year. Once apple trees come to fruition, they do produce a good amount of fruit.
However, standard apple trees don't begin bearing apples until they're between 4-5 years of age. That brings a whole new meaning to the word patience. Interestingly, even when abandoned or neglected from agricultural care, an apple tree can live up to 200 years, and continue to produce fruit.
6. Apples are members of the Rose family.
Apples, are...Wait for it...Actually members of the rose family. A lot of common fruits are technically roses, so it's not too shocking, but, still a pretty cool classification. Other economically important fruits of this species are include plums, cherries, peaches, strawberries, apricots, raspberries, and a bunch of others.
7. That cider you're drinking used a lot of apples.
8. Only five varieties of apples are sold in grocery stores.
Despite all the facts in this article about how many apples and apple varieties the U.S. harvests, only five varieties are sold in grocery stores. We can blame the industrial world for this. Variety is great for agriculture, but not so much for making the big bucks. When it came time to market apples in stores, the big wigs settled on just five to sell, which makes sense in terms of turning a profit.
This does not mean that these varieties are going extinct. Thanks to farmers such as Isabella Dalla Ragione, once-thought-to-be-extinct varieties are being kept in the loop.
These facts were fun for me to discover, in the spirit of my favorite season. They were also interesting to read in lieu of ongoing environmental discussions. Because of our efforts to commercialize certain varieties of fruits and vegetables, and the strain of bringing them to the masses, the produce we eat today is not necessarily what we were eating a hundred years ago. In fact, the apples we are producing today are much larger, crisper, and sweeter than they were. It may not seem like a problem, but there are varieties on records from centuries ago that are no longer in existence. It puts into perspective how much of nature has been changed.