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Wednesday August 23, 2006 9:15 pm

A Little Apple History

NY Apple AssociatonApples have been enjoyed by human beings since at least 6500 BC. Small burnt apples have been found in archaeological sites around lakes in Switzerland. There are wild apples or crab apples found in most countries of Europe, including as far north as Norway. It is thought that the first apple trees originated somewhere between the Caspian and the Black Seas. The Wild Apple, native to Britain, is the ancestor of all modern apple trees. The Romans grafted their premium varieties, including some from France, onto this wild stock  
Though small, bitter, wild Crab Apples were present in the New World when the Pilgrims came to America, they wrote home for seeds and cuttings from England. This established the early apple strains in New England. Later, colonists brought apple trees to plant in Virginia and throughout the Southeast. 
Legend tells of a Massachusetts man, Johnny Chapman, who traveled throughout what was then the West (Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois) in the early 1800s, planting apple trees. There is also a tale of a London sea captain who brought seeds to Washington state in 1820 that are reputed to be the initial stock for the booming Washington State apple industry.
Nearly 8,000 varieties exist today, but only about 100 are grown commercially in this country.  New varieties are being discovered as chance seedlings or intentional cross-breeding. Of the commercial crop, 61 percent are eaten fresh, 21 percent are made into juice or cider, and 39 percent are processed into a variety of apple products.

[Photo courtesy of the NY Apple Association]

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