Some say it got us kicked out of paradise. Others that it started the Trojan war. William Tell supposedly shot one off his son’s head with a crossbow. It was quite likely the main inspiration for Newton’s theory of gravity. When its name pops up nowadays, many first think about phones, rather than fruit. A Big one is the nickname for New York. The list of anecdotes and phrases seems endless. Apples are everywhere.
Originating from central Asia, the apple tree has been grown for thousands of years and is considered as the first cultivated tree – a fact which may explain its cultural omnipresence and importance. The tree bears round and juicy fruits which, depending on variety, are of different sizes, colours and flavour. There is, without a doubt, an apple for each taste among more than 7500 different apple varieties found in the world today.
Apples rank second on the global fresh fruit list, right after bananas. According to the United Nations, over 80 million tonnes of apples were produced in 2013, with a staggering half coming from China. This information is all the more interesting after seeing pictures of Chinese farmers pollinating fruit trees by hand. This, however, does not necessarily mean that there are no more bees left in China to do the job. Rather, it has also to do with economics and plant biology. Humans are more efficient and cheaper pollinators than bees in Chinese conditions.
In order to reach consumers worldwide and throughout the year, apples are stored in controlled conditions. By keeping apples in chambers with low temperature, high level of CO2 and high air filtration, we can delay their ripening for several months. Another way to improve their storing, and appearance, is waxing. This method is considered controversial by some, as apple producers may use (not so healthy) petroleum based substances for the coating. But be alert – most waxes used are organic and harmless to humans. Moreover, if a fruit shines, it does not always mean it has been artificially waxed. Many fruits, including apples, produce natural wax which decreases water loss and helps the fruit stay firm and makes it last longer.
A typical apple weighs almost 250 grams. Most of the fruit, around 85 percent, is water. Carbohydrates (sugars and fibres) represent almost 14 percent, whereas the remaining percent is composed of fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. Apples are a good source of fibres and Vitamin C. Some peel apples before eating them – a bit of a shame since apple skin also contains a good portion of nutrients.
Despite being a sweet and juicy fruit, apples can be used for more than just pastry – salads, applesauce, cider, juice, vinegar and even facial masks. Be it plain raw, dried or in form of chips, apples are also a good choice for a snack.
Written by Aljaž Malek