From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree
, species Malus domestica
in the rose family (Rosaceae). It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus
that are used by humans. Apples grow on small, deciduous trees. The tree originated in Western Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii
, is still found today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, and were brought to North America by European colonists. Apples have been present in the mythology and religions of many cultures, including Norse, Greek and Christian traditions. In 2010, the fruit's genome was decoded, leading to new understandings of disease control and selective breeding in apple production.
There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Different cultivars are bred for various tastes and uses, including in cooking, fresh eating and cider production. Domestic apples are generally propagated by grafting, although wild apples grow readily from seed. Trees are prone to a number of fungal, bacterial and pest problems, which can be controlled by a number of organic and non-organic means.
About 69 million tonnes of apples were grown worldwide in 2010, and China produced almost half of this total. The United States is the second-leading producer, with more than 6% of world production. Turkey is third, followed by Italy, India and Poland. Apples are often eaten raw, but can also be found in many foods (especially desserts) and drinks. Many beneficial health effects have been found from eating apples; however, the seeds are slightly poisonous as they contain cyanide and two forms of allergies are seen to various proteins found in the fruit.
The apple forms a tree that is small and deciduous, reaching 3 to 12 metres (9.8 to 39 ft) tall, with a broad, often densely twiggy crown. The leaves are alternately arranged simple ovals 5 to 12 cm long and 3–6 centimetres (1.2–2.4 in) broad on a 2 to 5 centimetres (0.79 to 2.0 in) petiole with an acute tip, serrated margin and a slightly downy underside. Blossoms are produced in spring simultaneously with the budding of the leaves. The flowers are white with a pink tinge that gradually fades, five petaled, and 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres (0.98 to 1.4 in) in diameter. The fruit matures in autumn, and is typically 5 to 9 centimetres (2.0 to 3.5 in) in diameter. The center of the fruit contains five carpels arranged in a five-point star, each carpel containing one to three seeds, called pips.
The original wild ancestors of Malus domestica
was Malus sieversii
, found growing wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang, China. Cultivation of the species, most likely beginning on the forested flanks of the Tian Shan mountains, has progressed over a long period of time and permitted secondary introgression of genes from other species into the open-pollinated seeds, including such a large amount of gene exchange with Malus sylvestris
, the crabapple, that current populations of apples are more related to those of crabapples than to the more morphologically similar progenitor Malus sieversii
, though in pure strains without recent admixture the contribution of the latter predominates.
In 2010, an Italian-led consortium announced they had decoded the complete genome of the apple in collaboration with horticultural genomicists at Washington State University, using the Golden delicious variety. It had about 57,000 genes, the highest number of any plant genome studied to date and more genes than the human genome (about 30,000). This new understanding of the apple genome will help scientists in identifying genes and gene variants that contribute to resistance to disease and drought, and other desirable characteristics. Understanding the genes behind these characteristics will allow scientists to perform more knowledgeable selective breeding. Decoding the genome also provided proof that Malus sieversii
was the wild ancestor of the domestic apple—an issue that had been long-debated in the scientific community.
The center of diversity of the genus Malus is in eastern Turkey. The apple tree was perhaps the earliest tree to be cultivated, and its fruits have been improved through selection over thousands of years. Alexander the Great is credited with finding dwarfed apples in Kazakhstan in Asia in 328 BCE; those he brought back to Macedonia might have been the progenitors of dwarfing root stocks. Winter apples, picked in late autumn and stored just above freezing, have been an important food in Asia and Europe for millennia, as well as in Argentina and in the United States since the arrival of Europeans. Apples were brought to North America with colonists in the 17th century, and the first apple orchard on the North American continent was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625. The only apples native to North America are crab apples, which were once called "common apples". Apple varieties brought as seed from Europe were spread along Native American trade routes, as well as being cultivated on Colonial farms. An 1845 United States apples nursery catalogue sold 350 of the "best" varieties, showing the proliferation of new North American varieties by the early 19th century. In the 20th century, irrigation projects in Washington state began and allowed the development of the multibillion dollar fruit industry, of which the apple is the leading species.
Until the 20th century, farmers stored apples in frostproof cellars during the winter for their own use or for sale. Improved transportation of fresh apples by train and road replaced the necessity for storage. In the 21st century, long-term storage again came into popularity, as "controlled atmosphere" facilities were used to keep apples fresh year-round. Controlled atmosphere facilities use high humidity and low oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to maintain fruit freshness.
In Norse mythology, the goddess Iđunn is portrayed in the Prose Edda (written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson) as providing apples to the gods that give them eternal youthfulness. English scholar H. R. Ellis Davidson links apples to religious practices in Germanic paganism, from which Norse paganism developed. She points out that buckets of apples were found in the Oseberg ship burial site in Norway, and that fruit and nuts (Iđunn having been described as being transformed into a nut in Skáldskaparmál) have been found in the early graves of the Germanic peoples in England and elsewhere on the continent of Europe, which may have had a symbolic meaning, and that nuts are still a recognized symbol of fertility in southwest England.
Davidson notes a connection between apples and the Vanir, a tribe of gods associated with fertility in Norse mythology, citing an instance of eleven "golden apples" being given to woo the beautiful Gerđr by Skírnir, who was acting as messenger for the major Vanir god Freyr in stanzas 19 and 20 of Skírnismál. Davidson also notes a further connection between fertility and apples in Norse mythology in chapter 2 of the Völsunga saga when the major goddess Frigg sends King Rerir an apple after he prays to Odin for a child, Frigg's messenger (in the guise of a crow) drops the apple in his lap as he sits atop a mound. Rerir's wife's consumption of the apple results in a six-year pregnancy and the Caesarean section birth of their son—the hero Völsung.
Further, Davidson points out the "strange" phrase "Apples of Hel" used in an 11th century poem by the skald Thorbiorn Brúnarson. She states this may imply that the apple was thought of by the skald as the food of the dead. Further, Davidson notes that the potentially Germanic goddess Nehalennia is sometimes depicted with apples and that parallels exist in early Irish stories. Davidson asserts that while cultivation of the apple in Northern Europe extends back to at least the time of the Roman Empire and came to Europe from the Near East, the native varieties of apple trees growing in Northern Europe are small and bitter. Davidson concludes that in the figure of Iđunn "we must have a dim reflection of an old symbol: that of the guardian goddess of the life-giving fruit of the other world."
Apples appear in many religious traditions, often as a mystical or forbidden fruit. One of the problems identifying apples in religion, mythology and folktales is that the word "apple" was used as a generic term for all (foreign) fruit, other than berries, but including nuts, as late as the 17th century. For instance, in Greek mythology, the Greek hero Heracles, as a part of his Twelve Labours, was required to travel to the Garden of the Hesperides and pick the golden apples off the Tree of Life growing at its center.
The Greek goddess of discord, Eris, became disgruntled after she was excluded from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In retaliation, she tossed a golden apple inscribed Kalliste sometimes transliterated Kallisti, 'For the most beautiful one', into the wedding party. Three goddesses claimed the apple: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris of Troy was appointed to select the recipient. After being bribed by both Hera and Athena, Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, thus indirectly causing the Trojan War.
The apple was thus considered, in ancient Greece, to be sacred to Aphrodite, and to throw an apple at someone was to symbolically declare one's love; and similarly, to catch it was to symbolically show one's acceptance of that love. An epigram claiming authorship by Plato states:
I throw the apple at you, and if you are willing to love me, take it and share your girlhood with me; but if your thoughts are what I pray they are not, even then take it, and consider how short-lived is beauty.
—Plato, Epigram VII
Atalanta, also of Greek mythology, raced all her suitors in an attempt to avoid marriage. She outran all but Hippomenes (a.k.a. Melanion, a name possibly derived from melon the Greek word for both "apple" and fruit in general), who defeated her by cunning, not speed. Hippomenes knew that he could not win in a fair race, so he used three golden apples (gifts of Aphrodite, the goddess of love) to distract Atalanta. It took all three apples and all of his speed, but Hippomenes was finally successful, winning the race and Atalanta's hand.
The forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden
Though the forbidden fruit in the Book of Genesis is not identified, popular Christian tradition has held that it was an apple that Eve coaxed Adam to share with her. This may have been the result of Renaissance painters adding elements of Greek mythology into biblical scenes (alternative interpretations also based on Greek mythology occasionally replace the apple with a pomegranate). In this case the unnamed fruit of Eden became an apple under the influence of story of the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides. As a result, in the story of Adam and Eve, the apple became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, the fall of man into sin, and sin itself. In Latin, the words for "apple" and for "evil" are similar (malum "an apple", malum "an evil, a misfortune"). This may also have influenced the apple becoming interpreted as the biblical "forbidden fruit". The larynx in the human throat has been called Adam's apple because of a notion that it was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking in the throat of Adam. The apple as symbol of sexual seduction has been used to imply sexuality between men, possibly in an ironic vein.
There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples. Cultivars vary in their yield and the ultimate size of the tree, even when grown on the same rootstock. Different cultivars are available for temperate and subtropical climates. The UK's National Fruit Collection, which is the responsibility of the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, has a collection of over 2,000 accessions in Kent. The University of Reading, which is responsible for developing the UK national collection database, provides access to search the national collection. The University of Reading's work is part of the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources collaborative programme of which there are 38 countries in the Malus/Pyrus working group. The UK's national fruit collection database contains a wealth of information on the characteristics and origin of many apples, including alternative names for what is essentially the same 'genetic' apple variety. Search for example for Court Pendu Plat to find alternative names including names in use across many other countries. Most of these cultivars are bred for eating fresh (dessert apples), though some are cultivated specifically for cooking (cooking apples) or producing cider. Cider apples are typically too tart and astringent to eat fresh, but they give the beverage a rich flavour that dessert apples cannot.
Commercially popular apple cultivars are soft but crisp. Other desired qualities in modern commercial apple breeding are a colourful skin, absence of russeting, ease of shipping, lengthy storage ability, high yields, disease resistance, typical 'Red Delicious' apple shape, and popular flavour. Modern apples are generally sweeter than older cultivars, as popular tastes in apples have varied over time. Most North Americans and Europeans favour sweet, subacid apples, but tart apples have a strong minority following. Extremely sweet apples with barely any acid flavour are popular in Asia and especially India.
Old cultivars are often oddly shaped, russeted, and have a variety of textures and colours. Some find them to have a better flavour than modern cultivars, but may have other problems which make them commercially unviable, such as low yield, disease susceptibility, or poor tolerance for storage or transport. A few old cultivars are still produced on a large scale, but many have been kept alive by home gardeners and farmers that sell directly to local markets. Many unusual and locally important cultivars with their own unique taste and appearance exist; apple conservation campaigns have sprung up around the world to preserve such local cultivars from extinction. In the United Kingdom, old cultivars such as 'Cox's Orange Pippin' and 'Egremont Russet' are still commercially important even though by modern standards they are low yielding and disease prone.
In the wild, apples grow quite readily from seeds. However, like most perennial fruits, apples are ordinarily propagated asexually by grafting. This is because seedling apples are an example of "extreme heterozygotes", in that rather than inheriting DNA from their parents to create a new apple with those characteristics, they are instead different from their parents, sometimes radically. Triploids have an additional reproductive barrier in that the 3 sets of chromosomes cannot be divided evenly during meiosis, yielding unequal segregation of the chromosomes (aneuploids). Even in the very unusual case when a triploid plant can produce a seed (apples are an example), it happens infrequently, and seedlings rarely survive. Most new apple cultivars originate as seedlings, which either arise by chance or are bred by deliberately crossing cultivars with promising characteristics. The words 'seedling', 'pippin', and 'kernel' in the name of an apple cultivar suggest that it originated as a seedling. Apples can also form bud sports (mutations on a single branch). Some bud sports turn out to be improved strains of the parent cultivar. Some differ sufficiently from the parent tree to be considered new cultivars.
The Excelsior Experiment Station of the University of Minnesota has, since the 1930s, introduced a steady progression of important hardy apples that are widely grown, both commercially and by backyard orchardists, throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. Its most important introductions have included 'Haralson' (which is the most widely cultivated apple in Minnesota), 'Wealthy', 'Honeygold', and 'Honeycrisp'.
Apples have been acclimatized in Ecuador at very high altitudes, where they provide crops twice per year because of constant temperate conditions year-round.
Rootstocks used to control tree size have been used in apple cultivation for over 2,000 years. Dwarfing rootstocks were probably discovered by chance in Asia. Alexander the Great sent samples of dwarf apple trees back to his teacher, Aristotle, in Greece. They were maintained at the Lyceum, a center of learning in Greece.
Most modern apple rootstocks were bred in the 20th century. Much research into the existing rootstocks was begun at the East Malling Research Station in Kent, England. Following that research, Malling worked with the John Innes Institute and Long Ashton to produce a series of different rootstocks with disease resistance and a range of different sizes, which have been used all over the world.
Apples are self-incompatible; they must cross-pollinate to develop fruit. During the flowering each season, apple growers usually provide pollinators to carry the pollen. Honey bees are most commonly used. Orchard mason bees are also used as supplemental pollinators in commercial orchards. Bumblebee queens are sometimes present in orchards, but not usually in enough quantity to be significant pollinators.
There are four to seven pollination groups in apples, depending on climate:
Group A – Early flowering, 1 to 3 May in England (Gravenstein, Red Astrachan)
Group B – 4 to 7 May (Idared, McIntosh)
Group C – Mid-season flowering, 8 to 11 May (Granny Smith, Cox's Orange Pippin)
Group D – Mid/late season flowering, 12 to 15 May (Golden Delicious, Calville blanc d'hiver)
Group E – Late flowering, 16 to 18 May (Braeburn, Reinette d'Orléans)
Group F – 19 to 23 May (Suntan)
Group H – 24 to 28 May (Court-Pendu Gris) (also called Court-Pendu plat)
One cultivar can be pollinated by a compatible cultivar from the same group or close (A with A, or A with B, but not A with C or D).
Varieties are sometimes classed as to the day of peak bloom in the average 30 day blossom period, with pollinizers selected from varieties within a 6 day overlap period.
Maturation and harvest
Cultivars vary in their yield and the ultimate size of the tree, even when grown on the same rootstock. Some cultivars, if left unpruned, will grow very large, which allows them to bear much more fruit, but makes harvesting very difficult. Mature trees typically bear 40–200 kilograms (88–440 lb) of apples each year, though productivity can be close to zero in poor years. Apples are harvested using three-point ladders that are designed to fit amongst the branches. Dwarf trees will bear about 10–80 kilograms (22–180 lb) of fruit per year.
Crops ripen at different times of the year according to the variety of apple. Varieties that yield their crop in the Summer include: Transparent, Primate, Sweet Bough, and Duchess; Fall producers include: Chenango, Gravenstein, Wealthy, McIntosh, Snow, and Blenheim; Winter producers include: King, Wagener, Swayzie, Greening, and Tolman Sweet.
Commercially, apples can be stored for some months in controlled-atmosphere chambers to delay ethylene-induced onset of ripening. The apples are commonly stored in chambers with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and high air filtration. This prevents ethylene concentrations from rising to higher amounts and preventing ripening from moving too quickly. Ripening continues when the fruit is removed. For home storage, most varieties of apple can be held for approximately two weeks when kept at the coolest part of the refrigerator (i.e. below 5 °C). Some types, including the Granny Smith and Fuji, can be stored up to a year without significant degradation.
Pests and diseases
The trees are susceptible to a number of fungal and bacterial diseases and insect pests. Many commercial orchards pursue an aggressive program of chemical sprays to maintain high fruit quality, tree health, and high yields. A trend in orchard management is the use of organic methods. These use a less aggressive and direct methods of conventional farming. Instead of spraying potent chemicals, often shown to be potentially dangerous and maleficent to the tree in the long run, organic methods include encouraging or discouraging certain cycles and pests. To control a specific pest, organic growers might encourage the prosperity of its natural predator instead of outright killing it, and with it the natural biochemistry around the tree. Organic apples generally have the same or greater taste than conventionally grown apples, with reduced cosmetic appearances.
A wide range of pests and diseases can affect the plant; three of the more common diseases/pests are mildew, aphids and apple scab.
Mildew: which is characterized by light grey powdery patches appearing on the leaves, shoots and flowers, normally in spring. The flowers will turn a creamy yellow colour and will not develop correctly. This can be treated in a manner not dissimilar from treating Botrytis; eliminating the conditions which caused the disease in the first place and burning the infected plants are among the recommended actions to take.
Aphids: There are five species of aphids commonly found on apples: apple grain aphid, rosy apple aphid, apple aphid, spirea aphid and the woolly apple aphid. The aphid species can be identified by their colour, the time of year when they are present and by differences in the cornicles, which are small paired projections from the rear of aphids. Aphids feed on foliage using needle-like mouth parts to suck out plant juices. When present in high numbers, certain species reduce tree growth and vigor.
Apple scab: Apple scab causes leaves to develop olive-brown spots with a velvety texture that later turn brown and become cork-like in texture. The disease also affects the fruit, which also develops similar brown spots with velvety or cork-like textures. Apple scab is spread through fungus growing in old apple leaves on the ground and spreads during warm spring weather to infect the new year's growth.
Among the most serious disease problems are fireblight, a bacterial disease; and Gymnosporangium rust, and black spot, two fungal diseases. Codling moths and apple maggots are two other pests which affect apple trees. Young apple trees are also prone to mammal pests like mice and deer, which feed on the soft bark of the trees, especially in winter.
About 69 million tonnes of apples were grown worldwide in 2010, and China produced almost half of this total. The United States is the second-leading producer, with more than 6% of world production. The largest exporters of apples in 2009 were China, the U.S., Poland, Italy, Chile, and France while the biggest importers in the same year were Russia, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.
In the United States, more than 60% of all the apples sold commercially are grown in Washington state. Imported apples from New Zealand and other more temperate areas are competing with US production and increasing each year.
Most of Australia's apple production is for domestic consumption. Imports from New Zealand have been disallowed under quarantine regulations for fireblight since 1921.
Apples are often eaten raw; except for the seeds, which are slightly poisonous (see below), the whole fruit including the skin is suitable for human consumption but the core is often not eaten, leaving an apple core as a residue. Varieties bred for this purpose are termed dessert or table apples.
Apples can be canned or juiced. They are milled to produce apple cider (non-alcoholic, sweet cider) and filtered for apple juice. The juice can be fermented to make cider (alcoholic, hard cider), ciderkin, and vinegar. Through distillation, various alcoholic beverages can be produced, such as applejack, Calvados, and apfelwein. Apple seed oil and pectin may also be produced.
Apples are an important ingredient in many desserts, such as apple pie, apple crumble, apple crisp and apple cake. They are often eaten baked or stewed, and they can also be dried and eaten or reconstituted (soaked in water, alcohol or some other liquid) for later use. Puréed apples are generally known as apple sauce. Apples are also made into apple butter and apple jelly. They are also used (cooked) in meat dishes.
In the UK, a toffee apple is a traditional confection made by coating an apple in hot toffee and allowing it to cool. Similar treats in the US are candy apples (coated in a hard shell of crystallized sugar syrup), and caramel apples, coated with cooled caramel.
Apples are eaten with honey at the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a sweet new year.
Farms with apple orchards may open them to the public, so consumers may themselves pick the apples they will buy.
Sliced apples turn brown with exposure to air due to the conversion of natural phenolic substances into melanin upon exposure to oxygen. Different cultivars vary in their propensity to brown after slicing. Sliced fruit can be treated with acidulated water to prevent this effect.
Organic apples are commonly produced in the United States. Organic production is difficult in Europe, though a few orchards have done so with commercial success, using disease-resistant cultivars and the very best cultural controls. The latest tool in the organic repertoire is a spray of a light coating of kaolin clay, which forms a physical barrier to some pests, and also helps prevent apple sun scald.
One form of apple allergy, often found in northern Europe, is called birch-apple syndrome, and is found in people who are also allergic to birch pollen. The allergy is caused by a protein in apples that is similar to birch pollen, and people affected by this protein can also become allergic to other fruits, nuts and vegetables. Reactions, which are called oral allergy syndrome (OAS), generally involve itching and inflammation of the mouth and throat, but in rare cases can also include life-threatening anaphylaxis. This reaction only occurs when raw fruit is consumed—the allergen is neutralized in the cooking process. The variety of apple, maturity and storage conditions can change the amount of allergen present in individual fruits. Long storage times can increase the amount of proteins that cause birch-apple syndrome.
In other areas, such as the Mediterranean, people have adverse reactions to apples because of their similarity to peaches, including a close relationship between the allergens of the two fruits. This form of apple allergy also includes OAS, but often has more severe symptoms, such as vomiting, abdominal pain and urticaria, and can be life-threatening. Individuals with this form of allergy can also develop reactions to other fruits and nuts. Cooking does not break down the protein causing this particular reaction, so affected individuals can eat neither raw nor cooked apples. Freshly harvested, over-ripe fruits tend to have the highest levels of the protein that causes this reaction.
Breeding efforts have yet to produce a hypoallergenic fruit for either of the two types of apple allergy.
Apples, with skin (edible parts) Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 218 kJ (52 kcal)
Carbohydrates 13.81 g
- Sugars 10.39 g
- Dietary fiber 2.4 g
Fat 0.17 g
Protein 0.26 g
Water 85.56 g
Vitamin A equiv. 3 µg (0%)
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.017 mg (1%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.026 mg (2%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.091 mg (1%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.061 mg (1%)
Vitamin B6 0.041 mg (3%)
Folate (vit. B9) 3 µg (1%)
Vitamin C 4.6 mg (6%)
Calcium 6 mg (1%)
Iron 0.12 mg (1%)
Magnesium 5 mg (1%)
Phosphorus 11 mg (2%)
Potassium 107 mg (2%)
Zinc 0.04 mg (0%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
The proverb "An apple a day keeps the doctor away.", addressing the health effects of the fruit, dates from 19th century Wales. Fruit specialist J.T. Stinson popularized this proverb during a lecture at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri).
Basic research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. Apple peels contain ursolic acid which, in rat studies, increases skeletal muscle and brown fat, and decreases white fat, obesity, glucose intolerance, and fatty liver disease.
Apple peels are a source of various phytochemicals with unknown nutritional value and possible antioxidant activity in vitro. The predominant phenolic phytochemicals in apples are quercetin, epicatechin, and procyanidin B2.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a typical apple serving weighs 242 grams and contains 126 calories with significant dietary fiber and vitamin C content.
Apple juice concentrate has been found to increase the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in mice. Other studies have shown an "alleviation of oxidative damage and cognitive decline" in mice after the administration of apple juice. Fruit flies fed an apple extract lived 10% longer than other flies fed a normal diet.
In the United States, it was once tradition to bring an apple to the teacher on the first day of elementary school. In the Disney film Pinocchio, Geppetto has Pinocchio bring an apple to his teacher.