In a good Year about two-thirds of a bushel of apples is grown in the United States for every man, woman, and child. Every State and almost every temperate land in the world grows apples. Apple's blossom throughout Europe, Asia, Russia, Siberia, China, Korea, and India. Apples also grow in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South America.
Flavor alone is not responsible for the fruit's popularity. Just as important is its hardiness. Some varieties can stand temperatures down to 40 degrees below zero F. and will also grow in warm climates, provided there's moderate winter to give the trees a rest.
America regards the apple and apple pie as its own, producing more of both than any other country. But the species from which our present varieties were derived, was believed to have started in southwestern Asia, between the Caspian and the Black Sea.
Long before recorded history, apples spread across Europe. Stone Age lake dwellers of central Europe not only stores fresh apples for eating but preserved them by cutting and sun drying them. The Greek writer Theophrastus mentions several varieties cultivated in Greece in the fourth century b.c. And according to mythology, an apple (albeit a gold one) was awarded to the goddess Aphrodite in what may have been the worlds first beauty contest.
At the time America was discovered, apples were central and northern Europe's most important cultivated fruit. Inevitably the first settlers in temperate regions of the New World brought apples with them: the English to Virginia and New England, the Dutch to New York, and the French to Canada.
Once started, seedling apple plantings moved west faster than the white settlers. Some Indian tribes planted orchards around their villages. John Chapman, an itinerant missionary better known as Johnny Appleseed, roamed Ohio and Indiana early in the 19th century teaching the gospel and planting apples. Apple seeds were planted at Vancouver, Washington, by 1817.
Though their ancestors came from Europe, most of our apple varieties started as seedling trees here in America. A hundred trees grown from seed of a single tree will differ from each other and from the parent. If the new tree is named and propagated by a grafting or budding, it becomes a new variety.
In a fruit-growing community, such a discovery is like striking oil or gold. Grateful citizens even erect monuments to the birth of a new apple. A pillar topped with a huge stone apple marks the spot where the first Baldwin apple tree was found in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Another in Dundas County, Ontario, Canada, stands where John McIntosh, while clearing forestland, discovered the apple that bears his name. These and other varieties, such as the Wine-sap and Yellow Newton, date back to colonial days. The famous Delicious only since 1895, and the Golden delicious since 1916.
Major commercial apple areas in the United States are the irrigated valleys of the pacific Northwest, particularly Washington; south and east of the Great lakes, in New York, Ohio, and Michigan; and the foothills and valleys east of the Appalachian range, from North Carolina to New England.
Crab apple is a name popularly applied to trees that give small fruit (1/2 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter), usually very acidic and tart. Most crab apples grown for fruit in this country started as crosses of the Siberian species M. bacata with standard apples, and are generally called Siberian crabs. They are popular in Canada because they are hardy and ripen early.
In northern Europe crab apples often go into cider. American housewives like them for pickles and jelly. Many kinds of crab apples are also grown not for their fruit but as flowering shrubs.