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11 Facts You Never Knew About Apples
Here are some big apple facts and small ones, too.
Johnny Appleseed was a real person
John Chapman was a missionary who “spread good seeds and a new take on the kingdom of heaven, trekking barefoot in a sackcloth shirt through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana during the first half of the 19th century,” according to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. But by the 1920s, most of his trees were gone—chopped down by the FBI during Prohibition so that people couldn’t use the apples to make hard cider, but his legacy was immortalized in the 1948 Disney film.
There used to be more apple varieties
While it may seem as if your grocery store has a nice selection, we’re a long way from what fruit historians describe as “the golden age of pomology.” During the 19th century, there were about 14,000 distinct apple varieties across the United States. Today, only around 100 varieties of apples are commercially grown. Here’s a guide to the most common types of apples and what you can do with them.
Cider over pie
Apples grown in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries were often more likely to end up in a cider barrel than in a pie. “In rural areas, cider took the place of not only wine and beer but of coffee and tea, juice and even water,” author Michael Pollan wrote in The Botany of Desire. Check out 48 incredible recipes you can make with apple cider.
New York City’s famous nickname wasn’t inspired by the fruit
During the 19th century, the term the big apple began to be used to describe “something regarded as the most significant of its kind; an object of desire and ambition,” according to a New York Public Library blog post. The term’s first known use in reference to New York appeared in 1909 when Edward S. Martin wrote in The Wayfarer in New York that the Midwest “inclines to think that the big apple [New York] gets a disproportionate share of the national sap.” Take a look at some of our favorite recipes from New York.
There’s plenty of truth to the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”
A large apple has about 115 calories and five grams of fiber per serving, and the fruit’s polyphenols and fiber help balance bacteria in your gut. In fact, apples are one of the healthiest foods for your body. But make sure not to peel it: two-thirds of an apple’s antioxidants and much of its fiber are found in the skin.
That said, as Snow White can attest, apples aren’t entirely benign
Apple seeds contain a compound called amygdalin that’s part of the fruit’s defense system. If you crush or chew apple seeds, the amygdalin can degrade into hydrogen cyanide, which can be lethal in high doses. But it would take at least 160 apple seeds to put an adult’s life at risk. Not all Disney-related foods are dangerous. Here are some of our favorite places to eat at Disney World.
Store them in the fridge
Displaying your apples in a bowl on a table might look as pretty as a painting, but if you want them to last, store them in the fridge, as lower temperatures slow the ripening process. Farmers can keep their fruit in plain old cold storage for a month or two; most apple varieties won’t keep much longer than that. Make sure to avoid these other produce mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
The enzyme that causes apples to brown isn’t all bad
The same enzyme also counteracts the pungent compounds in garlic. That’s right, eating an apple will kill a case of garlic breath.
How did this earthy fruit become the symbol of one of the world’s wealthiest corporations?
One day, Steve Wozniak picked up Steve Jobs at the airport. The paperwork for their computer company was due the next day, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. Jobs had just been pruning apple trees in Oregon, and when the men started throwing around potential names, he suggested Apple Computer. “It sounded fun, spirited and not intimidating. Apple took the edge off the word computer, ” Jobs said.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first supergroup to use Apple as its corporate moniker
In 1968, the Beatles formed Apple Corps to represent their creative interests. After Apple Computer rose to prominence, the two companies worked out an agreement that Apple Computer would keep its logo and name out of the music business. That changed in 2003 when Apple began selling music through iTunes. It took seven more years before the Beatles finally let it be, and let iTunes carry their music.
Apples and fertility
Apples have long been associated with fertility—Paris had hoped his golden apple would win him Helen of Troy. And according to NPR in colonial New England, “an eligible young lady would try to peel an apple in a single unbroken strip, toss the peel over her shoulder and peer nervously to see what letter the peel formed on the floor: This was the initial of her future husband.” Or, they could do what Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, did and make Ina Garten’s “engagement chicken.”