Seventy-five hundred varieties of apples exist around the globe. Flavor profiles range from crabby nose-wrinkling bitterness to something heavenly-sweet.  In fact, without human intervention, these roughly eight thousand types could expand to well over twenty thousand.  The average American consumes roughly twenty pounds of apples each year through everything from raw apples to marmalade.  This popularity makes apples an important fruit to the success of the US economy. With a history steeped in diversity and immigration, the apple represents far more than monetary returns. The fruit is as quintessentially American as apple pie.

While ancient trees were found in Switzerland, the apple as we know it began with ancient farmers in the middle-east.  Many of the ancestors of our modern apples are best described as crabby: sour, stubborn, bitter, and hard.  From these stubborn roots, deep in Mesopotamia, the first palatable strains of this fruit were carefully crafted. These strands moved from its place of origin to the parts of Europe conquered by Rome and its empire. Its journey did not stop there. The taste for apples, particularly cider, followed European settlers into the wilds of North America and beyond. An old foe reared its head upon the arrival of the first settlers: crab apples. In fact, before the intervention of these colonists, no other varieties were native to this country. William Blackstone, who came abroad with a hearty bag of apple seeds, planted the first large-scale orchard in 1623.  By the middle of the seventeenth century, apples and orchards became commonplace.   Cider flowed freely.

From the seventeenth century onward, the apple featured heavily in American history. Armed guards were posted around the first commercial nursery during the Revolutionary War by the English. It was around an old apple tree, later crafted into a cane, that Lafayette and General Washington may have planned their initial strategies. Thomas Jefferson cultivated four hardy strains of apples at Monticello that spread far and wide. In the early 19th century, the legend of Johnny Appleseed grew from Johnny Chapman. For forty years, this celibate man introduced apples across thousands of acres and spread his name across the Americas.  In this same time period, many apple orchards arose that continue to exist to this day.  When people began to move towards the west and the Pacific, the apples followed. Just like the country in which they found a new home, apples grew drastically more diverse as America grew.

In modern times, the apple has been ousted as the most popular fruit in America. Regardless, it remains synonymous with diversity, adaptability, and the crispness of autumn weather. Something picked at Halloween, packed into warm pies, and it remains synonymous with family fun. 

Written by Dynasty D. Dyer

October 15, 2015


·       http://www.bestapples.com/varieties/ -  Varieties and statistics on Apple types

·       http://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/overview-fruits-monticello - Basic information for Monticello

·       http://whatscookingamerica.net/Fruit/Apples.htm - Used to find sources for other dat