The word apple is derived from the old English word aeppel. Apple is a fruit that is cultivated and consumed across the world, not only for its sweet taste but also for its nutritional value.
Consuming apples helps lower heart disease as well as helps a great deal in weight control. There are hundreds of different types of varieties available across the globe and are either consumed fresh or baked into apple pies, converted into juices, jellies, jams, and many more mouth-watering products.
Archaeologists have stumbled upon the carbonized remains of the apple pertaining to the Iron age in a few prehistoric lakes of Switzerland. They also came across evidence which confirmed that apples were eaten by people of the Stone age as well. The apple tree is believed to be the oldest cultivated trees in the world, however, its exact origin is not known. Some historians believe that apple trees were first planted and cultivated by the Romans, and that the fruit's origin can be traced to South Western Asia. While on the other hand, some believe that apples originated in Kazakhstan in South Central Asia.
In the 13th century BCE, Ramesses II (Egyptian Pharaoh) ordered for apples to be cultivated in the Nile Delta region. Further, apples were also cultivated across the Rhine Valley region, and around 35 different types of apples were cultivated by the end of the 1st century CE. When the English colonists came to the US in the 1600s, they found only the crab apple variety. They also noticed that the orchards produced lower number of fruits because the number of honeybees were less. So they shipped apple tree cuttings, seeds, and beehives all the way from England to the US in early 1622. Once the shipment arrived, the English colonists immediately started planting apple orchards.
Historians also mention about a man named William Blackstone, who brought a bag of apple seeds along with him from Europe into Massachusetts, USA. He is known to have planted apple orchards on Beacon Hill in Boston as well as Rhode Island. In 1632, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop was gifted the Conants Island in Boston Harbor. In response to this generous gift, John promised to plant an apple orchard on the island and also pledged to give a fifth of the fruits produced every year to the governor, whoever he would be. By the 1640s, apple orchards were well established across the United States.
The first commercial apple tree nursery, called William Prince Nursery was opened by Robert Prince in 1737 in the US. This nursery consisted of exotic varieties of plants and trees brought from across the globe, and was a prized nursery. In 1775, the Britishers (time of the revolutionary war) who occupied the Long Island, New York prized the nursery so much that they even went forward and appointed an armed guard to protect it. Further, in 1789, George Washington (first US president) along with the vice president, and some others visited the William Prince Nursery. However, George Washington was not impressed by the garden and stated that the shrubs in the nursery were trifled and the flowers were few.
Then there is the legend about 'Johnny Appleseed' that Americans hold on to so dearly. The popular folk hero's actual name was John Chapmen (1774-1845), a farmer whose desire was to cultivate so many apples that nobody would sleep hungry. He traveled from one land to another planting apple orchards and is believed to have traveled approximately 10,000 square miles of the Frontier country to fulfill his dream. He would dry the apple seeds, put them in bags, and give them to passersby (heading West) he met. He devoted his entire life towards the 'apple cause' until his death in 1845.
In the early 20th century, another man named Sydney Babson had also devoted his life to planting apple orchards. In 1960, he was awarded the title of "Orchardist of the Year." By 2004, 130 billion pounds of apples were cultivated across 91 countries covering over 13 million acres of land, with 35 states from the US producing apples worth $1.76 billion. Today, apple is the most widely cultivated fruit tree in the world, with China as the leading producer, followed by the US at the second place. Some of the other leading producers are Iran, Italy, France, and Turkey.
Apples have not fallen from the sky. Many people from the past have taken painstaking efforts to plant and cultivate apple orchards, just so that today we can enjoy this wonderful fruit. Hopefully, we will remember their efforts and give due credit to them the next time we eat an apple.