Long before apples were added to the recommended daily list of required fruits, they appeared in ancient myths, folk tales, and biblical parables. Today, apples are definitely a mainstay in our kitchens and culture, and are second only to bananas as America’s favorite fruit.
Whether apples are converted to juice and conveniently packed into squeeze packs, baked into pies, or fermented into hard cider, our love affair with the apple never wavers. And yet, despite our ardor, we really don’t know much about this delightful, versatile fruit. So we’ve decided to celebrate its virtues by sharing 13 interesting facts you might not know:
1. They’re Originally From Asia
Apples were first cultivated in the Caucasus of Central Asia between the Black and Caspian Seas, and there is even archeological evidence from cave drawings that indicates apples were eaten by humans as far back as the stone ages.
2. A Rose by Any Other Name
Apples are a deciduous tree that is a member of the rose family, and like roses, the best way to grow and propagate them is by grafting the chosen apple variety onto root stock.
3. They’ve Been Popular Since Antiquity
The Greeks and Romans liked and cultivated apples, and the oldest apple recipe on record comes from an ancient Roman cookbook from the first century A.D. called De Re Coquinaria ("The Art of Cooking"). The primary author was a gourmet known Marcus Gavius Apicius, and the book contained a recipe for diced pork prepared with apples.
4. Oldie but Goodie
One of the oldest apple varieties still grown today is the Lady apple, which ancient documents show was eaten as far back as the first century A.D.
5. North Americans are Crabby
The crabapple is the only apple native to North America. British settlers were the first to bring European apple seeds, cuttings, and plants to America when they arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.
6. Some are Better for Drinking
In colonial times, many Dutch and British farmers planted European cider varietals brought from home and the practice of growing small family orchards spread across the colonies. However, most of these apples were not cultivated for cooking or eating but for hard cider production.
7. Cider for Everyone!
In the colonial era, hard cider was consumed by everyone, young and old because apple orchards were easier to plant and grow than the barley needed to produce beer, and cider was safer to drink than communal water sources, which were often contaminated.
8. One bourbon, one scotch, and one…cider?
Up until the end of the 19th century, apple cider was the preferred alcoholic beverage of the working class and farmers.
9. Less Variety in the 21st Century
By the early 1900s there were more than 14,000 distinct native American apple varieties grown in the U.S.; today that number has dwindled to 2,500 across all 50 states.
10. Most Hail From The Evergreen State
The top commercial apple producing states are Washington (70 percent), New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, and Virginia, and each year, they produce 48,000 tons of fruit.
11. We Grow a Lot of Them
The fruits produced in greatest quantity, by acre, in the U.S. are oranges, grapes, and apples.
12. But We Don’t Grow the Most
China grows more apples than any other country, followed by the U.S. which commercially grows apples in 36 states.
13. We Eat Them by the Pound
In 2012, the average consumption of apples, per person, in America was 44 pounds; per person consumption of apple juice and cider was 22.3 pounds; and per person consumption of fresh apples was 16 pounds.
Summer Whitford is the D.C. Editor at The Daily Meal and also writes about food, drink, and travel. Follow her on Twitter @FoodandWineDiva, on Instagram at thefoodandwinediva, and read more of her stories here.