It’s Apple season again. There are more than 7500 known cultivars of apples.The grocery stores and farmer’s markets are filled with apples of varying hues of reds, greens and golds. My favorite stores have apple cider, apple pies, apple cakes and apple candies.
Where do all these apples come from? China is the largest apple producer in the world. The United States is in second place followed by Poland, Turkey, India, Iran, Italy, Russia, France, and Chile rounds out the top ten.
Yes apples, a temperate fruit which requires some lower temperatures, can grow in the warm climates of Africa. The most popular varieties grown in Africa include Golden Delicious, Starking (a variety of Red Delicious) , Granny Smith, Galas, Pink Lady, and Cripps. Most varieties of apples were introduced into Africa in the 1930’s -1940’s. Granny Smith’s made it to Africa in 1919.
While we’re all enjoying picking, cooking and eating apples, let’s not forget the importance of the apple in literature, celebrations and popular culture.
Apples have been used as symbols in mythology as well as in the Bible. In mythology, golden apples preserved the immortality of the gods and in the book of Genesis the apple tree in the Garden of Eden was the tree of knowledge (good and evil) and its fruit was forbidden to be eaten by Adam and Eve.
In addition to immortality, since Eve was tricked into taking a bite of the apple, apples have been used in literature to represent, knowledge, temptation, the fall of man and sin.
The wicked queen tempted Snow White with a big shiny red apple which was poisoned.
In another Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, The Juniper Tree, a stepmother murders her stepson by luring him to a chest of apples and slamming the lid down on his neck. Let’s just say this is one of the brothers most violent tales and unless you are in the mood for a Texas Chainsaw kind of story give it a pass.
Golden Apples in the Garden of Hesperides were part of Hera’s orchard. According to legend, Gaia presented branches of golden apples as a wedding present to Zeus and Hera. Hera begged to be allowed to plant them. Given the task of tending the apple trees, occasionally, the Hesperides would pick and eat one of Hera’s apples. To protect her apples, Hera put Landon, an immortal, never sleeping hundred-headed dragon in the Garden to guard her apple.
In the myth, Judgment of Paris, the Goddess of Discord, Eris took an apple from the orchard causing the Trojan War. Angered because she wasn’t invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Eris crashes the wedding celebration and offers a golden apple as a prize for beauty. Hera, Athena and Aphrodite each attempt to claim the prize. Zeus refuses to choose and declares that Paris, a Trojan mortal, would decide who should receive the prize. Hera offers to make Paris ruler of Europe and Asia. Athens offers him wisdom and skill in battle , but Aphrodite offers him the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen. Paris accepts Aphrodite’s offer, but Helen is married and her husband launches an attack to retrieve her causing the Trojan War.
Apples are mentioned in the Eleventh Labor of Heracles (Hercules). He is tasked with stealing golden apples from the Tree of Life growing at the center of the Garden of Hesperides.
In other Greek mythology, Atalanta, who was very fleet of foot, raced her suitors in order to escape marrying them. Hippomenes, also known as Melanion – a Greek named believed to have been derived from “melon” which was also referred to as apple and meant fruit in general, realized he would never beat Atalanta in a fair race, so he used three golden apples given to him by Aphrodite to distract Atalanta and slow her down enough so that he could finish a whisper ahead and capture her hand.
In Norse mythology, the apple tree is a sacred symbol of beauty and rebirth. The goddess Iounn was chosen to be the keeper of the apples that preserved the youth and immortality of the AEsir (the primary pantheon in Norse religion which included Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Tyr). Iounn is kidnapped by a jotunn (a dwarf, troll or elf-like entity) Pjazi who forces Loki to lure Iounn out of Asgard with her apples. When the AEsir start to age, they force Loki to rescue Iounn and her apples.
In Swiss folklore, William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head with his crossbow. According to the story, Tell who is an excellent marksman refuses to bow before the hat of Gessler, the tyrannical Reeve of one of the dukes of the House of Hapsburg. As punishment Tell and his young son are sentenced to death. Gessler orders Tell to shoot the apple off his son’s head with his crossbow. If Tell is successful, he and his son will be released. If he fails, he might kill his own son and have to have that as his last memory before his own death. Spoiler alert Tell slices the apple in two with a single arrow and escapes with his son after Gessler reneges on his promise.
In Celtic culture, Allantide is a Cornish festival beginning on the night of October 31 and continuing through the next day. Large glossy red apples called Allan apples are given to family and friends for good luck. Until the late 20th century, Allantide was more popular for gift giving in the town of St. Just in Western Cornwall than Christmas.
In a traditional game during Allantide, two wooden boards in the form of a cross are suspended from the ceiling with four lit candles on top of each section of board. Apples are suspended from the boards and players must catch the apple in their mouth without using their hands or getting hot wax on their faces. Unmarried players fortunate enough to get an apple were supposed to put it under their pillow so they could dream about the person they were destined to marry. I’ll stick to bobbing for apples (not a good choice if you are a germaphobe) or passing apples down the line using my chin.
In Russia and Ukraine, the Apple Feast of the Savior on August 19 is the second of the three Feasts of the Savior during the Slavic folk Christianity holiday – The Honey Feast of the Savior is first (August 14) and the third feast is the Nut Feast of the savior (August 29). The origins of the holiday are actually pre- Christian and are tied to the harvest of fruits. The Byzantine Empire traditionally blessed fruits during the grape harvest, but because apples were more common in Russia the blessing centered around the apple harvest instead. On this day, people from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russians eat apples, apple pies and other apples dishes.
October 21, 1990 the first Apple Day was held in the UK. The purpose of Apple Day is to build community spirit.
The term “apple” was used to describe many different fruits (not berries) as late as the 17th century
Tomatoes were originally called “love apples” when first introduced in Europe and cucumbers were called earth-apples. The translation for potato in French, Afrikaans, Persian, Dutch, Swiss German, and Hebrew means earth-apples. Oranges have been called golden apples and Chinese apples. Datura called thorn apples.
Granny Smith apples are named after a woman in Australia – Mrs. Maria Ann Smith, a grandmother, who discovered the seedling in her garden in the 1860’s.
In secular art, apples became the symbol for love and sexuality.
In Arthurian legend, the mythical isle of Avalon’s name stands for “isle of apples.”
In Irish folklore, if someone peels an apple in one continuous ribbon, a woman can throw the ribbon behind her shoulder and it will land in the shape of her future husband’s initials.
An old boatbuilder’s superstition held that building boats from the wood of apple trees was unlucky because wood from apple had previously been used to make coffins.
During the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, apples are eaten after being dipped in honey to encourage a sweet new year.
In the United States, Sweden and Denmark, school children traditionally give their teachers gifts of brightly polished red apples during the school year.
On April1, 1976 Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computer Company which became Apple Computer, Inc. and eventually just Apple Inc.. In August 2018, Apple Inc. became the first public U.S. company to be valued at over US $1 trillion.
During the 1980’s the term “apple” gained popularity among some Native Americans as a slur for other Native Americans who seemed to have lost touch with their culture (red outside, white inside).
Some information for this article was taken from theafricangourmet.com website.