Apples – The Forbidden Fruit

Urban Apples on Whitney Avenue

Apple trees don’t get the respect they deserve, a quick way to become my enemy is to say “Just an apple tree”. When it comes to storied fruit trees, the apple is king! I am going to try to convince you to plant apple trees, and I am going to do it without ever mentioning the cool fact that you can eat them. All you have to do is tell me something is “forbidden” and I’m on board, but other people take a little more convincing.

Apple Tree – Malus domestica – Rose Family

The modern-day apple finds its roots in the mountains of central Asia where it can still be found growing wild today, Turkey is commonly thought to be the center of diversity. Cultivation of the species has progressed over a long period of time and permitted a secondary introgression of genes from other species into the open-pollinated seeds, including such a large amount of gene exchange with the crabapple, that current populations of apples are more related to those of crabapple than to the more similar progenitor Malus sieversii.

The apple tree was perhaps the earliest tree to be cultivated, and our modern-day fruits have been chosen through thousands of years of selection. Alexander the Great is credited with finding dwarf apples in Kazakhstan in Asia, those he brought back to Macedonia might have been the progenitors of dwarfing rootstock.

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. Apple varieties brought as seed from Europe were spread along Native American trade routes, as well as being cultivated on colonial farms. Prior to this the only apples native to North America were crabapple, which were at one time called “common apples”.

Apples appear in many religious traditions, often as a mystical or forbidden fruit. One of the problems identifying apples in a 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.

The apple was 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. This is thought to be the precursor to our modern-day tradition of a ring being used in modern marriage proposals, imagine if all you had to buy was an apple…

Though the forbidden fruit in the book of Genesis is not identified, popular christian tradition has said that it was an apple that Eve coaxed Adam to share with her. This was probably the result of Renaissance painters adding elements of Greek mythology into Biblical scenes, though it is much more likely to have been a pomegranate. 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 an Adam’s apple because of a notion that it was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking in the throat of Adam.

Some of the old world apples are beginning to be rediscovered, many of which have been in cultivation for hundreds, if not thousands of years. If you are looking to grow an exotic species of fruit, Google “Victorian Apples” and consider one of the old world varieties that have been recently brought back into cultivation. Many of the apples of the past, though they may not have had the shelf life of todays apples, were actually much better tasting… The chance of them ever being cultivated in mass is pretty slim, so it will be up to “us”, the home gardeners and micro-farmers to keep them alive…

grow forbidden fruit – chriscondello

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6 thoughts on “Apples – The Forbidden Fruit

  1. 'loba says:

    I would love to grow apples, but they don’t thrive in my part of the world.

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  2. good reading. did you know you can get some of that fabled ancient apple diversity from Central Asia for free? check out what i’m doing with Malus sieversii bud wood. http://jacoblindaman.com/apples/

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  3. hi, hope you’re ok? missing your quirky take on things, if you’re ill, hope it clears up soon, all good wishes!

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  4. i currently live about 10 miles from southwell, home of the bramley cooking apple, one of the most famous varieties as it stores and travels so well, i was taught as a child to always ask for bramleys at the greengrocers. when i was 40 i met a descendant of the gardener who actually did the grafting – his name is brailsford, and the descendant was so annoyed that the master got the credit!
    but there’s nothing like an apple pie with a couple of cloves in, or a mocktail made with sweet and sharp apples and lemon balm and a squeeze of lemon, and chopped apple in a salad is lovely…

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  5. I like this piece of writing even though I am not very fond of apples. I found very interesting the last paragraph. People wanted to know about the forbidden fruit and they discovered homonymy instead. The apple pays for this great human error even today. Poor apple! What about the other forbidden fruit? The fruit of immortality. The seeds were brought by the Sumerian King Gilgamesh and they have been stolen from his sandal by a snake while he was taking a bath. Poor Gilgamesh! Poor snake! Poor Adam! Ah me…

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