13 Facts You Never Knew About Apples
Here are some big apple facts, and small ones too.
That forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden? It could have been a pomegranate
The book of Genesis does not explicitly say what fruit Eve persuaded Adam to share with her. The Hebrew Bible uses the generic term peri, which rabbinic scholars have said could be used to describe a fig, a grape, a pomegranate, an apricot, or even wheat.
Another apple-centric Biblical note: the phrase apple of your eye
In Psalm 17, David uses it when he’s talking to God: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Is David rather full of himself in assuming that he is God’s favorite? Not necessarily. The Bible’s use of apple here is thought to be a poetic way to refer to the eye’s pupil, which is also round. If you and the apple of your eye are looking for cute date ideas, you may be interested in the best places to go apple picking in every state.
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.”
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. Of course, after you learn these 14 shocking things you never knew about grocery store produce, you may want to put even your favorite apple variety back on the shelf.
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.
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.” Some things never change.
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 fruits 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.
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.