an apple a day?

This is apple harvest time in Minnesota, home of the Honeycrisp variety of apples, so loved by everyone who has tried one.

honeycrisp apples-

My neighbor’s honeycrisp apple tree is so loaded with apples, the branches are bending down to the ground.

It seems to be a Fall for bumper crops of all apples, judging from the loaded branches of the apple trees on my street.

apple tree-loaded with fruit

An apple tree loaded with fruit awaits harvest. Squirrels don’t seem to bother them, but the deer love them.

Apples are not only sweet and good tasting, but they are supposedly good for you, right?  “an apple a day…” It’s sayings like this that have helped spread apple trees all over the world map. Originally native to Kazakhstan, this highly productive forest tree has spread around the globe — entirely due to human’s fondness for sweet tastes.

Michael Pollan - apple origin

Quote from Michael Pollan on the origin of apples in his book, The Botany of Desire

From Kazakhstan, apple seeds were dropped by traders along the Silk Road to Asia and to Europe, and eventually made their way to North America with the early colonists who planted apple orchards, spreading the apple genes throughout the northeast.

apple harvest-Kazakhstan

Apple harvest-Kazakhstan marketplace. At its center of origin, there are 56 species of the wild Malus species, only 30 of which have been semi- or wholly domesticated for apple production.

We humans perform much the same service that bees do in pollinating the apple’s flowers, helping spread the genes of the apple by planting their seeds everywhere. In return, like the nectar and pollen the tree supplies to its pollinators, it repays its seed dispersers (animal and human alike) with crisp, sweet fruit that lasts several months when stored properly at cool temperatures.

What is it that makes apples so delicious?

cross section of apple-

A cross section of a Honeycrisp apple (which I ate while writing this) shows the star-shaped endocarp housing the seeds. Each of the 5 chambers houses 1-2 seeds. The total number of seeds per apple (5-10) depends on the energy resources of the tree.

Around the star-shaped seed capsules are ten yellow-green dots that are the remnants of the flower stamens. The sepals (surrounding the petals of the flower) are at one end of the apple, and the flower stem (now fruit stem) is at the other. In between is the greatly expanded floral cup (called the hypanthium) that grows up and around the ovary housing the soon-to-be seeds, and filled with starch granules synthesized by the leaves over a summer’s worth of sunlight.  At the end of the summer, those starch granules begin to break down to individual sugar molecules — and voila, sweet, juicy, crisp Fall apples are ready to be harvested.

honeycrisp apples

A sample of the harvest from just one of my dwarf honeycrisp trees. There were so many apples on the poor little tree I thought their weight might break branches, so I thinned out half of the crop. I should have done this back last spring instead of now.

5 thoughts on “an apple a day?

  1. Apples are such a wonderful fruit there are so many different varieties all over the world. It has been a good apple year here too. I am exhausting my uses for them and today I’ve started apple cider vinegar for the first time. Amelia

    • Applesauce, apple pie, apple butter, dried apples, apple cider…but I’ve never tried to make cider vinegar. When I was in grad school we filled a pick-up truck with downed apples from a local orchard, got them pressed into juice, filled two 50-gallon barrels with the juice, and then drank apple beer all winter. But the best part was the end of the barrel contents which we sat outside to freeze for several days, and then drank the apple brandy that formed in the center of the frozen sludge. Wow!

  2. We are having a banner year for apples in northern New York as well! I stopped the other day and gathered apples off the roadside to give to the deer that come every evening. They were huge and absolutely beautiful. Usually, the roadside apples are not good at all – tough and bitter – not these, though. They are delicious! The heck with giving them to the deer – they will become applesauce or pie tomorrow 🍎.

    • How well I remember the apple “fall” in upstate New York. We reaped the bonanza of fallen apples one year also, although I remember them being on the small side, but still so juicy. One of the best things about fall season is the apple harvest. Thanks for writing, Ginny.

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