There is perhaps no other fruit that’s left a mark on human popular culture quite like the apple.
And despite it’s sinful origins in Judeo-Christian canon, the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve snacked-on before being banished from Eden was never called an apple.
It wasn’t until renaissance painters took liberties with the book of Genesis depicting the story that then popularized Eve biting into a fresh one given to her by a less-than well-intentioned reptile.
And while the the whole Adam and Eve story brought the fruit a mountain of bad press, the ancient Greeks treated apples much the same way we treat gourmet chocolate or fresh cut roses. If you wanted to declare your love for someone in the time of Plato, you tossed an apple at your bae. If he or she caught it, your love would be reciprocated and you would live happily ever after.
Or at least until you were conquered by the Romans.
And while they’re tasty and can substitute as a valentine with the right person, an apple a day won’t necessarily keep the doctor away. There’s little nutrition in apples other than sugar. And when we’re talking seeds, there’s something far worse.
Compounds in apple seeds contain anydalin, which is a chemical compound found in cyanide. Don’t fret if you swallowed a seed or two. Lots of processing has to happen before a seed can off a guy, processing that your tummy can’t do.
While the Greeks treated the apple with love, it doesn’t compare to the appropriation committed by the then new United States of America. In 1775—one year shy of the drafting of the break-up letter to King George—one in ten New England homes had a cider mill in their home.
Cider—the hard stuff—was guzzled down by men, women and even children. And in the way New Yorkers or Chicagoans bemoan pizzas not rolled out within the city limits, so too did Americans treasure their local brews. A particularly homesick John Adams complained about the poor quality of Philadelphia ciders when compared to the stuff he was used to tossing-back in Boston in one of their many letters.
Before anyone ever uttered the words “Kentucky Bourbon,” Applejack, which was a brandy made from distilled hard cider, was the spirit of choice among the common man. General turned President, George Washington, turned every apple planted on Mount Vernon into the stuff, when he wasn’t chopping down cherry trees or besting redcoats.
But in America you can’t mention apples without dropping the name “Appleseed.” Johnny Appleseed’s Christian name was John Chapman, and he planted apple nurseries as far north as Ontario and as far west as Indiana at the start of the 19th century.
All while sporting a very fashion-forward pot on his head.
Today, 36 out of 50 states grow apples, and they are the second most profitable fruit in the US (oranges are the first.) When it comes to consumption, the U.S. has the world beat. In 2013, Americans ate almost 16 pounds of fresh apples each. And that’s not even counting pie!
That’s it for this week’s feature. Until next time: feed your head.