Getting to the core of apple philosophy

October, well known for its color and crisp mornings, also has something else going for it.  It’s national apple month and has been just about since 1904.  And because I love apples almost as much as I love October, I feel it is my duty to pay homage to the humble apple as I admit my naivety about one of America’s favorite fruits.  Juicy, sweet, convenient, and crunchy, just thinking about them makes me want to head to the kitchen and shine one up on my shirt.
I eat a lot of apples, but after learning recent facts, I’ll never eat another apple and not marvel just a little bit.
Growing up in Ohio, I was fed story upon story of Johnny Appleseed.  I’d even go as far as to say that a good portion of us have sat in dimly lit classroom watching a cartoon man with a pot on head and nothing on his feet on a massive TV that was wheeled down from the library.  I grew up thinking (and singing) that he planted lots of trees, and so today we honor him.  Pass the cider, please.  
And then I learned a little more about apples and thought about them probably more than an average person should.
First a bit of basic apple biology that I sadly recently learned.  If you eat a scrumptious yellow delicious apple and want to have a whole orchard of them, you cannot plant the seeds from that apple and expect to get yellow delicious trees.  Instead, you get a some wild cross-pollinated probably inedible variety.  The only way to get a yellow delicious apple is to graft a little from an existing yellow delicious tree.  By this logic, every single yellow delicious apple tree has been grafted and grafted, and grafted again, from one very special tree.  That very special tree happened to be in West Virginia in 1905, and the variety was absolutely by chance.
Think that’s old?  The red delicious apple was first grown in Iowa in 1880.  The granny smith originated in Australia in 1868.  And every single mcintosh apple that you have ever eaten came, essentially, from the same tree in Ontario, Canada in 1796.
Apples have five seeds that form a beautiful flower image if you slice the apple through its equator, and one quick look and you’ll be taken to spring when the blossoms fill the trees.  The pretty little seeds are evolutionarily brilliant, though, each containing the slightest bit of cyanide to keep the little critters from eating them.
So what about all of those apple seeds that our local hero Johnny sprinkled from his burlap sack as he whistled a happy tune?  Knowing what I now know, those apple trees made apples that weren’t so tasty.  I bet Johnny knew this too, and yet he still planted orchards all around our part of the world.  The reason?  Apple cider.  Hard or otherwise, it was the cleanest thing to drink on the frontier.
And so here we are, in national apple month, on the brink of the holiday apple bobbing and pie seasons, faced with a rather philosophical relationship to apples.  We’ve picked bushels, we’ve sliced and diced and cooked and strained applesauce, and the lunches of my children are constantly filled with apples.  If each apple has five to ten seeds, I can’t fathom the amount that I’ve thrown away.  And in each tiny, discarded seed there is a new apple, unlike any other apple that has ever been.  Maybe the next braeburn or Jonathon got tossed out.
I can’t help but wonder what my pie would taste like if I planted just one.


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