The apple is a tree and its pomaceous fruit, of the species Malus domestica in the rose family Rosaceae. It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. It is a small deciduous tree reaching 5-12 m tall, with a broad, often densely twiggy crown. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple oval with an acute tip and serrated margin, slightly downy below, 5-12 cm long and 3-6 cm broad on a 2-5 cm petiole. The flowers are produced in spring with the leaves, white, usually tinged pink at first, 2.5-3.5 cm diameter, with five petals. The fruit matures in Autumn, and is typically 5-8 cm diameter (rarely up to 15 cm).
The wild ancestor of Malus domestica is Malus sieversii. It has no common name in English, but is known where it is native as "alma"; in fact, one major city in the region where it is thought to originate is called Alma-Ata, or "father of the apples". This tree is still found wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang, China.
For many years, there was a debate about whether M. domestica evolved from chance hybridisation among various wild species. Recent DNA analysis by Barrie Juniper, Emeritus Fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University and others, has indicated, however, that the hybridisation theory is probably false. Instead, it appears that a single species still growing in the Ili Valley on the northern slopes of the Tien Shan mountains at the border of northwest China and the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan is the progenitor of the apples we eat today. Leaves taken from trees in this area were analyzed for DNA composition, which showed them all to belong to the species M. sieversii, with some genetic sequences common to M. domestica.
Some individual M. sieversii, recently planted by the US government at a research facility, resist many diseases and pests that affect domestic apples, and are the subject of continuing research to develop new disease-resistant apples.
Other species that were previously thought to have made contributions to the genome of the domestic apples are Malus baccata and Malus sylvestris, but there is no hard evidence for this in older apple cultivars. These and other Malus species have been used in some recent breeding programmes to develop apples suitable for growing in climates unsuitable for M. domestica, mainly for increased cold tolerance.
The apple tree was probably the earliest tree to be cultivated, and apples have remained an important food in all cooler climates. To a greater degree than other tree fruit, except possibly citrus, apples store for months while still retaining much of their nutritive value. 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.
The word apple comes from the Old English word aeppel, which in turn has recognisable cognates in a number of the northern branches of the Indo-European language family. The prevailing theory is that "apple" may be one of the most ancient Indo-European words (*abl-) to come down to English in a recognisable form. The scientific name malus, on the other hand, comes from the Latin word for apple, and ultimately from the archaic Greek mālon (mēlon in later dialects). The legendary placename Avalon is thought to come from a Celtic evolution of the same root as the English "apple"; the name of the town of Avellino, near Naples in Italy is likewise thought to come from the same root via the Italic languages.
Apples of the cultivar 'Jonathan'
There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples. Different cultivars are available for temperate and subtropical climates. Apples do not flower in tropical climates because they have a chilling requirement.
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, long stem (to allow pesticides to penetrate the top of the fruit), and popular flavour.
Old cultivars are often oddly shaped, russeted, and have a variety of textures and colours. Many of them have excellent flavour (often better than most modern cultivars), but may have other problems which make them commercially unviable, such as low yield, liability to disease, 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 are out there to discover; apple conservation campaigns have sprung up around the world to preserve such local cultivars from extinction.
Although most cultivars are bred for eating fresh (dessert apples), 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.
Modern apples are, as a rule, sweeter than older cultivars. 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.
Tastes in apples vary from one person to another and have changed over time. As an example, the U.S. state of Washington made its reputation for apple growing on Red Delicious. In recent years, many apple connoisseurs have come to regard the Red Delicious as inferior to cultivars such as Fuji and Gala due to its merely mild flavour and insufficiently firm texture.
Like most perennial fruits, apples are ordinarily propagated asexually by grafting. Seedling apples are different from their parents, sometimes radically. 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.
Some breeders have crossed ordinary apples with crabapples or unusually hardy apples in order to produce hardier cultivars. For example, 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'. The sweetness and texture of 'Honeycrisp' have been so popular with consumers that Minnesota orchards have been cutting down their established, productive trees to make room for it, a heretofore unheard of practice.
Starting an orchard
Apple orchards are established by planting two to four year old trees. These small trees are usually purchased from a nursery where they are produced by grafting or budding. First, a rootstock is produced either as a seedling or cloned using tissue culture or layering. This is allowed to grow for a year. Then, a small section of branch called a scion is obtained from a mature apple tree of the desired cultivar. The upper stem and branches of the rootstock are cut away and replaced with the scion. In time, the two sections grow together and produce a healthy tree.
Rootstocks affect the ultimate size of the tree. While many rootstocks are available to commercial grower, those sold to homeowners who want just a few trees are usually one of two cultivars; a standard seedling rootstock that gives a full-size tree, or a semi-dwarf rootstock that produces a somewhat smaller tree. Dwarf rootstocks are generally more susceptible to damage from wind and cold. Full dwarf trees are often supported of posts or trellises and planted in high density orchards which are much simpler to culture and greatly increase productivity per unit of land.
Some trees are produced with a dwarfing "interstem" between a standard rootstock and the tree, resulting in two grafts.
After the small tree is planted in the orchard, it must grow for 3-5 years (semi-dwarf) or 4-10 years (standard trees) before it will bear sizeable amounts of fruit. Good training of limbs and careful nipping of buds growing in the wrong places, are extremely important during this time, to build a good scaffold that will later support a fruit load.
Apples are relatively indifferent to soil conditions and will grow in a wide range of pH values and fertility levels. They do require some protection from the wind and should not be planted in low areas that are prone to late spring frosts. Apples do require good drainage, and heavy soils or flat land should be tilled to make certain that the root systems are never in saturated soil.
Apples are self-incompatible and must be cross-pollinated to develop fruit. Pollination management is an important component of apple culture. Before planting, it is important to arrange for pollenizers, cultivars of apple or crab apple that provide plentiful, viable and compatible pollen. Orchard blocks may alternate rows of compatible cultivars, or may have periodic crab apple trees, or grafted-on limbs of crab apple. Some cultivars produce very little pollen, or the pollen is sterile, so these are not good pollenizers. Quality nurseries have pollenizer compatibility lists.
Growers with old orchard blocks of single cultivars sometimes provide bouquets of crab apple blossoms in drums or pails in the orchard for pollenizers. Home growers with a single tree, and no other cultivars in the neighbourhood can do the same on a smaller scale.
During the flowering each season, apple growers usually provide pollinators to carry the pollen. Honeybee hives are most commonly used, and arrangements may be made with a commercial beekeeper who supplies hives for a fee. Orchard mason bees are also used as supplemental pollinators in commercial orchards. Home growers may find these more acceptable in suburban locations because they do not sting. Some wild bees such as carpenter bees and other solitary bees may help. Bumble bee queens are sometimes present in orchards, but not usually in enough quantity to be significant pollinators.
Symptoms of inadequate pollination are excessive fruit drop (when marble sized), small and misshapen apples, slowness to ripen, and low seed count. Well pollinated apples are the best quality, and will have 7 to 10 seeds. Apples having less than 3 seeds will usually not mature and will drop from the trees in the early summer. Inadequate pollination can result from either a lack of pollinators or pollenizers, or from poor pollinating weather at flowering time. It generally requires multiple bee visits to deliver sufficient grains of pollen to accomplish complete pollination.
Apple tree in flower
A common problem is a late frost that destroys the delicate outer structures of the flower. It is best to plant apples on a slope for air drainage, but not on a south facing slope (in the northern hemisphere) as this will encourage early flowering and increase susceptibility to frost. If the frost is not too severe, the tree can be wetted with water spray before the morning sun hits the flowers, and it may save them. Frost damage can be evaluated 24 hours after the frost. If the pistil has turned black, the flower is ruined and will not produce fruit.
Growing apples near a body of water can give an advantage by slowing spring warm up, which retards flowering until frost is less likely. In some areas of the USA, such as the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, the southern shore of Lake Ontario, and around some smaller lakes, this cooling effect of water, combined with good, well-drained soils, has made apple growing concentrations possible. However, the cool, humid spring weather in such locations can also increase problems with fungal diseases, notably apple scab; many of the most important apple-growing regions (e.g. northern China, central Turkey, and eastern Washington in the USA) have climates more like the species' native region well away from the sea or any lakes, with cold winters leading to a short, but warm spring with low risk of frost.
Home growers may not have a body of water to help, but can utilise north slopes or other geographical features to retard spring flowering. Apples (or any fruit) planted on a south facing slope in the northern hemisphere (or north facing in the southern hemisphere), will flower early and be particularly vulnerable to spring frost.
Apples are prone to biennial bearing. If the fruit is not thinned when the tree carries a large crop, it may produce very little flower the following year. Good thinning helps even out the cycle, so that a reasonable crop can be grown every year.
Commercial orchardists practice chemical thinning, which is not practical for home fruit. Apples bear in groups of five (or more rarely six) blossoms. The first blossom to open is called the king bloom. It will produce the best possible apple of the five. If it sets, it tends to suppress setting of the other blossoms, which, if they set anyway, should be removed. The next three blossoms tend to bloom and set simultaneously, therefore there is no dominance. All but one of these should be thinned for best quality. If the final blossom is the only one that sets, the crop will not be as good, but it will help reduce excessive woody growth (suckering) that usually happens when there is no crop.
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 a great deal more fruit, but makes harvest very difficult. Mature trees typically bear 40-200 kg 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 kg of fruit per year.
Pests and diseases
The trees are susceptible to a number of fungal and bacterial diseases and insect pests. Nearly all 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 Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which reduces needless spraying when pests are not present, or more likely, are being controlled by natural predators.
Spraying for insect pests must never be done during flowering because it kills pollinators. Nor should bee-attractive plants be allowed to establish in the orchard floor if insecticides are used. White clover is a component of many grass seed mixes, and many bees are poisoned by insecticides while visiting the flowers on the orchard floor.
Among the most serious disease problems are fireblight, a bacterial disease; and Gymnosporangium rust, apple scab, and black spot, three fungal diseases.
The plum curculio is the most serious insect pest. Others include Apple maggot and codling moth. For other Lepidoptera larvae which feed on apple trees, see List of Lepidoptera which feed on Malus.
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. Growers usually sheath juvenile trees with wire mesh to protect them.
Apples are difficult to grow organically, 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 to spray a light coating of kaolin clay, which forms a physical barrier to some pests, and also helps prevent apple sun scald.
Commerce and uses
45 million tonnes of apples were grown worldwide in 2002, with a value of about 10 billion USD. China produced almost half of this total. Argentina is the second leading producer, with more than 15% of the world production. The United States is the third leading producer, accounting for 7.5% of world production. Turkey is also a leading producer. France, Italy, South Africa and Chile are among the leading apple exporters.
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.
Apples can be canned, juiced, and optionally fermented to produce apple juice, cider, vinegar, and pectin. Distilled apple cider produces the spirits applejack and Calvados. Apple wine can also be made. They make a popular lunchbox fruit as well.
Apples are an important ingredient in many winter desserts, for example 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 re-consitituted (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.
with skin (edible parts)
Apples have long been considered healthy, as indicated by the proverb "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". Research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. Like many fruits, Apples contain Vitamin C as well as a host of other antioxidant compounds, which explains the reduced risk of cancer (with the free radical explanation of reduced cancer risk due to prevented DNA damage). The fibre in the fruit (while less than most other fruits) helps keep the bowels healthy, which may be a factor in the reduced risk of colon cancer. They may also help with heart disease, weight loss and controlling cholesterol, as they do not have any cholesterol, have fibre (which reduces cholesterol by preventing reabsorption), and are bulky for their caloric content like most fruits and vegetables.
A group of chemicals in apples could protect the brain from the type of damage that triggers such neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinsonism. Chang Y. "Cy" Lee of the Cornell University found that the apple phenolics, which are naturally occurring antioxidants found in fresh apples, can protect nerve cells from neurotoxicity induced by oxidative stress. The researchers used red delicious apples grown in New York state to provide the extracts to study the effects of phytochemicals. Lee said that all apples are high in the critical phytonutrients and that the amount of phenolic compounds in the apple flesh and in the skin vary from year to year, season to season and from growing region to growing region (November/December 2004 issue of the Journal of Food Science). The predominant phenolic phytochemicals in apples are quercetin, epicatechin, and procyanidin B2 (PMID 14558772).
Apples as symbols
Apples appear in many religious traditions, often as a mystical and forbidden fruit. This tradition is reflected in the book of Genesis. Though the forbidden fruit in that account is not identified, popular European Christian tradition has held that it was an apple that Eve coaxed Adam to share with her. As a result, in the story of Adam and Eve the apple became a symbol for temptation, the fall of man into sin, and sin itself. In Latin, the words for "apple" and for "evil" are similar ("malus" - apple, malum - evil). This may be the reason that the apple was 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.
This notion of the apple as a symbol of sin is reflected in artistic renderings of the fall from Eden. When held in Adam's hand, the apple symbolizes sin. However, when Christ is portrayed holding an apple, he represents the Second Adam who brings life. This also reflects the evolution of the symbol in Christianity. In the Old Testament the apple was significant of the fall of man; in the New Testament it is an emblem of the redemption from that fall, and as such is also represented in pictures of the Madonna and Infant Jesus.
There is one instance in the Old Testament where the apple is used in a more favorable light. In Proverbs 25:11, the verse states, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver". In this instance the apple is being used as a symbol for beauty.
At times artists would co-opt the apple, as well as other religious symbology, whether for ironic effect or as a stock element of symbolic vocabulary. Thus, secular art as well made use of the apple as symbol of love and sexuality. It is often an attribute associated with Venus who is shown holding it.
Adam and Eve eating an apple
from the tree of knowledge by Rubens 
Apples in 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 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.
Atalanta, also of Greek mythology, raced all her suitors in an attempt to avoid marriage. She outran all but Hippomenes, who defeated her by cunning, not speed. Hippomenes knew that he could not win in a fair race, so he used three golden apples 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.
In Norse mythology, the goddess Išunn was the appointed keeper of apples that kept the Ęsir young forever. Išunn was abducted by Žjazi the giant, who used Loki to lure Išunn and her apples out of Įsgaršr. The Ęsir began to age without Išunns apples, so they coerced Loki into rescuing her. After borrowing Freyjas falcon skin, Loki liberated Išunn from Žjazi by transforming her into a nut for the flight back. Žjazi gave chase in the form of an eagle, where upon reaching Įsgaršr he was set aflame by a bonfire lit by the Ęsir. With the return of Išunns apples, the Ęsir regained their lost youth.
Celtic mythology includes a story about Conle who receives an apple which feeds him for a year but also gives him an irresistible desire for Fairyland.
Legends, folklore, and traditions
LINKS and REFERENCE
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