Apples of our eyes

Have you noticed that everywhere you look this year there are trees loaded with apples and pears? Limbs are loaded with fruit in orchards, backyards, and wild wooded areas. You may have noticed this in places that you didn’t even know had fruit trees. It’s a bumper crop from the nearly perfect seasonal conditions of temperature and moisture. Some say it is a sign of a harsh winter to come and nature’s way of preparing the animals by providing them plenty of food.

That remains to be seen and thoughts of snow, ice, and cold aren’t comforting so for now, just relish the season and enjoy its bounty.

How many ways can we enjoy apples? A scene from the movie “Forrest Gump” comes to my mind when thinking about all the possibilities. You might remember his southern friend at boot camp who shared all the ways that shrimp can be served. There is barbecued shrimp, stir fried shrimp, shrimp gumbo, kabobs, and creole. Shrimp burgers, shrimp salad, shrimp soup, and lemon shrimp are just a few more prospects. Apples are similar because of the numerous recipes that can be prepared for main dishes, breads, salads, and desserts.

Apples have a long history. In this country, an historical figure of note connected with apples is Johnny (Chapman) Appleseed. Some stories of him have undoubtedly been exaggerated and have him living amongst the wolves, but he was a real man who coincidentally was born in the month of September many years ago in 1774.

Children’s books tell of his westward movement through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois where he spread both good cheer and apple seeds for oncoming settlers.

The uncut and adult version is a bit more interesting.

Mr. Chapman had economic reasons for his journeys. An entrepreneur, he started apple nurseries and orchards in many areas where he anticipated pioneers would settle; his first supposedly near Warren, Pa. He later sold them for a profit.

Today we envision large and juicy apples for eating and pies, but in Chapman’s time that’s not what people had in mind. Apples meant cider; hard cider that nearly everyone enjoyed for many decades and was often the beverage of choice and an alternative to water. The small apples were pressed into juice. Without pasteurization, the juice quickly turned into an alcoholic beverage that was a bit weaker than wine.

Apples and hard cider evolved. The Temperance movement sprung up as early as the late 1700s and continued into the 1800s. By the beginning of the 1900s, it was in full swing, with the total prohibition of alcohol on the horizon.

The apple needed a new image to survive from an economic standpoint. According to one source about Johnny Appleseed from, the apple industry came up with the advertising slogan, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” because it feared prohibition would cut their sales.

The source said, “We can thank prohibition for shifting the image of the apple to the healthy, wholesome, American-as-apple-pie fruit that it is today.” It is interesting that something as seemingly insignificant as a beverage can plays a role in shaping society and history.

The 2005 book, “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” relates such history from very early European and Old World times through the development of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. Further explanation would lead to an entirely different column, but this explains why even today some countries have preferred beverages.

There are a plethora of apple varieties to enjoy. New York is ranked second in the nation for production of apples. McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Rome, Idared, Crispin, and Gala are among the most popular. According to, there are nearly 700 commercial growers in the state with an average of more than 29 million bushels grown per year. Over 13 million bushels are used as fresh fruit and nearly 12 million are used for processing into related products; providing employment to thousands of people. Thank goodness for pollinators such as honeybees which pollinate up to 90 percent of the apple crop, the plight of which was highlighted in last week’s column, “Buzzkill Loss of honeybees may be tied to distain for weeds.”

Now is the time to take advantage of the bumper crop of apples. Forrest Gump might say you could have applesauce, apple pie, apple cinnamon squares, apple granola, apple muffins, apple cake, apple tarts, apple cobbler, apple crisp, apple pizza, apple pork chops, apple salad, and certainly apple cider. Of course, then there’s just the plain, old apple. Take a bite and reap health benefits including the possibility that apples fight against cancer and heart disease. They are loaded with nutrients that are great for the diet and help digestion, to name just a few of the benefits

Make it a good week and think ahead. It’s never too early to make plans for the future.

What apple trees could you plant, which can last well over 50 years and bear fruit?