By Rita Lynn
The number of distinct apple varieties grown by Americans in the 19th century was around 14,000. Today, only about 90 varieties are grown commercially. “A Curious Tale: The Apple in North America,” www.bbg.org/gardening/article/the_apple_in_north_america
Apples are native to the mountainous regions of Kazakhstan, where apple trees grow to 60 feet tall and, in some places, are the dominant species in the forest. “Winter Banana, Northern Spy and King Lucious: Apples in North America,”http://exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu/apples/home.htm
Taken from “Apple Facts,” http://urbanext.illinois.edu/apples/facts.cfm:
- 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, and 7,500 varieties are grown throughout the world.
- The science of apple growing is called pomology.
- It takes the energy of 50 leaves to produce one apple.
- Apples are a member of the rose family.
- Apples have 5 seed pockets, called carpels. The number of seeds depends on the variety of apple as well as the vigor and health of the tree.
- Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since at least 6500 B.C. They were the favorite fruit of ancient Greeks and Romans.
- In colonial times, apples were called winter banana or melt-in-the-mouth.
- A person in the United States, and in Europe as well, consumes about 46 pounds of apples and apple products annually.
- An average apple tree can produce 840 pounds of apples in a year, although trees take 4 to 5 years to produce their first crop.
And finally, here’s one last bit of information that caught my attention. It has to do with Fuji apples, one of my favorite varieties. Fuji apple history goes back to Thomas Jefferson, not only a founding father of our country, but also an avid horticulturist. He grew a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on his estate in Virginia and was known for his love of propagating exotic cultivars. Edmund Charles Genet, French minister to the U.S. between 1793 and 1794, is believed to have given Jefferson a cutting from an apple tree. Jefferson is said to have passed the cutting on to Caleb Ralls, a Virginia nurseryman, who grafted the cutting and disseminated that variety, called “Ralls Genet,” throughout Virginia and into the western territories. It was one of the most popular apples among growers in the Ohio valley for many years. In the 1920’s, however, commercial orchardists began to focus on fewer varieties of apples, and older cultivars like the Ralls Genet fell into disuse. Fortunately for us, eager Japanese breeders came along in 1939, dipped into the U.S. apple gene pool, and crossed the Ralls Genet with the Red Delicious. The resulting variety, released in 1962, was named “Fuji,” after the horticultural center’s city. By the time the source article was written in 2005, it had become the third most popular apple in the U.S., after the Red and Golden Delicious varieties. Whether or not other varieties have overtaken it since then, it’s still one of the apples at the top of my list!