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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

An Apple a Day.....

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, November 16, 2014/Categories: natural history, art and design, environment, plants

Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, Fuji, Jonagold, and Snapdragon, you can find these apple varieties and more in your supermarket aisles and farmers market stalls along with any number of others. The list of apple varieties now exceeds 7500 and grows with each new release. 

Apples originated in Central Asia from trees in the rose family. Wild types are still found growing there and cultivars have been grown in Asia and Europe for thousands of years. Apples were brought to North America by the colonists and were a favored fruit of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Remember the old adage about "an apple a day". They maintain health, culinary, and mythical value in many cultures to this day. A fact sheet by the University of Illinois on  apples  provides more history and cultural details than you could imagine.

Apples, Malus domestica (credit Wiki-commons)   New Apple  (credit: Cornell Orchards )

New apple varieties are still developed by the patient talents of plant breeders who utilize genetics from wild selections, heirloom cultivars, and existing commercial fruit types. Apple breeding in the USA takes place at USDA field stations, universities like Cornell and Washington State, and with private growers. After years of horticultural and consumer testing, buds of a new variety are grafted onto sturdy rootstock and released to domestic growers in the multi-billion dollar, fresh fruit, apple industry. You can learn about the grafting process here:

The  Seed Savers Exchange  in Iowa will soon publish the definitive book on heirloom apples, The Illustrated History of Apples, in 2015. Written by apple orchardist and historian Dan Bussey the book will cover thousands of varieties you've never heard of but might want to. You might even find a new recipe for an amazing apple pie.

The old adage says: an apple a day, keeps the doctor away. It now takes on new meanings.


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