Monday, September 17, 2012

Apple Soup

Once upon a time in America the only apples you could find, should you be looking, were gnarly, bitter, wormy crabs. When the first European settlers came over, they brought with them apple trees, but not being used to the new climate and soil, they did poorly. When you bring a brand new plant to an ecosystem you also need to think about how that plant will reproduce. The early settlers hadn’t considered a lack of honeybees for pollination when they packed their ships. So they brought honeybees and different apples and tried again until some survived, and again and again until more survived. Eventually, America had enough apple orchards to make cider for everyone to drink. No-one ate apples back then, as most apples were downright inedible. They made good cider though.

John Chapman, AKA “Johnny Appleseed” would collect apple pips from slush piles outside cider mills in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the autumn, and float them downriver to establish small orchards along the Ohio, which was then still the frontier. Once the settlers started moving west, and needed apple trees, his were mature enough to sell to them. Over time, the old world apple genes mixed with the native apple genes and produced hardier trees.

The original Golden Delicious tree in its protective cage.  (1931)
Thus did the Apple become American. Once in a blue moon the right combination of genes will produce an apple tree with delicious apples you can eat. This was the case with the original Golden Delicious tree, which grew in Clay County, West Virginia. Every Golden Delicious apple you have ever eaten comes from a clone of that tree.

The ABC of Jiffy Cookery, The Peter Pauper Press, 1961

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