What is the History of Apples?
Origin of Apples
Obviously the origin of apple trees and their delectable fruit is their creation by God. The first apple tree would date back to the creation of the World.
Ancient History of Apples
By 2500 B.C. apples were cultivated throughout the northern Mesopotamia and Persia area. The gardens of Persia, often walled gardens included apple trees for their ornamental beauty, especially during blossom time, and for their culinary enjoyment.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans also cultivated apple orchards, providing delectable desserts for their banquets and other festivities.
The Greeks were well advanced in horticultural knowledge, and were known to graft and propagate specific varieties of apples for their orchards.
Throughout Continental Europe and Britain, apple orchards became established as the Roman Empire extended their empire, crops and culture.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, many varieties of apples, especially those coveted for desserts, disappeared. In 771, a measure of peace was brought to the area, and with the increased stability, an increase interest in horticultural returned. The growing of apple trees, and other fruit trees were encouraged, as was the trade of "brewing", including the production of apple cider.
During the Renaissance Period, apple cultivation and propagation of different varieties progressed.
The History of Apples in North America
From the early arrival of European settlers in North American History, the apple has always been an important part of American life.
One of the first documented orchard in the New World was
planted around 1625 in Boston, U.S.A. An apple from this orchard, named
"Sweet Rhode Island Greening" is believed to be the first named variety
of apple from the United States.
In Colonial America, in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century America, apples were grown primarily for hard cider. Hard cider was the most common drink at that time, because the water was considered unsafe to drink. It was common for each family at that time to produce 20 - 50 barrels of cider each fall.
After the American Revolution, apple grafting and apple tree nurseries became more common. Most of the plantings in home orchards however, were of seedling trees that were not pruned. The fruit was used mainly for cider, and since there was an abundance of apples, they were fed to hogs (a cheap way to fatten the pigs).
John Chapman, better known as "Johnny Appleseed" was a popular character in the early nineteenth century America. He is credited with starting seedling apple tree nurseries throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. He travelled throughout those areas and gave apple seeds from the cider mills to any farmer who promised to plant them, and maintain the apple trees. He also planted seedling nurseries in clearings of land that he crossed while on his travels. By his death in 1847, Johnny Appleseed had established apple trees over 100,000 square miles in America.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a smaller percentage of people
were growing their own apples as populations moved into the cities to
Between 1880 and 1930 the apple industry was affected by the fact that refrigerated railway cars allowed apples and other fruit to be shipped from the western states to the eastern states in America.
Refrigerated storage became a reality between 1910 and 1920. This capability of storing fruit
meant that preferred varieties of apples could be stored longer, so
varieties that were grown mostly because of their ability to be stored
throughout the winter were no longer varieties that needed to be grown.
GO to Apple Varieties
At the beginning of the twentieth century there is said to have been seven thousand named varieties of apples existing. By the twenty-first century however, five thousand of these varieties were extinct. With the capabilities of refrigerated storage, and the ability to transport apples refrigerated, the types or varieties of apples which are grown are chosen for their flavour, and suitability, not for how well a particular variety stores throughout the winter season.
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