April 8, 2022 | LIFE | By Rhetta Power | Photo by Aida Hasson
You might be reading this article with the question, “who cares about apples?”
That is a valid question. First of all, I do. Second of all, I respond to this inquiry with an attempt to open your eyes to the ways in which apples have infiltrated our culture, and a brief dive into the complexities that lead up to an apple making its way first to the grocery store, then into you, then into the toilet bowl.
Apples are apparent in the modern world in too many ways to count. The plentiful associations we make with apples are varied in meaning and context. We use apples in our idioms and proverbs: “he’s a bad apple,” “you’re the apple of my eye,” “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and “it’s like comparing apples and oranges.”
We use apples in our cultural images and stories: George Washington and the apple tree, Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden, grandma’s apple pie, teachers receiving apples as gifts, and finally, the Apple products that most of us constantly carry around and use.
The apple’s prevalence is such that we often do not pause to consider its actual presence.
However, I encourage you to take a second as you’re reading this sentence to pause and imagine biting into an apple.
How was it?
Crisp. Juicy. Delicious. These are some adjectives that come to mind when I picture biting into an apple. I’ve been an avid apple-eater for as long as I can remember. I come from Minnesota, a state you could consider the Silicon Valley of the apple industry. The University of Minnesota has engineered some top-notch apple varieties on the market. Some apple varieties to come out of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station are SweeTango™, Zestar!™, Snowsweet ™, and most famously, the Honeycrisp.
The Honeycrisp is no longer trademarked by the University of Minnesota, their patent ran out in 2008, but not before earning the university more than $6 million. The Honeycrisp is the fifth most popular apple on the market today, according to Vox magazine. The apple took 30 years to perfect, reached grocery store shelves in 1992, but didn’t develop its current popularity until 2007. The Honeycrisp is characterized by its crispiness, sharp sweet taste, and expensive price point in comparison with other apple varieties.
If you’ve perused the apple section at a grocery store, you probably will recognize the other top four apples in the United States: Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, and Granny Smith.
Galas originated in New Zealand during the 1930s and are currently the most produced apple in the United States. They are generally smaller than other apple varieties and are said to have a floral aroma.
Red Delicious apples were first recognized in Iowa during the 1870s. They are the deep, dark red apples that are commonly given to children in happy meals and school lunches. The Red Delicious had great popularity in the 1900s but by the 1990s most people realized that Red Delicious are not so delicious, and an overreliance on their production pushed the apple industry to the edge of collapse before a government bailout in 2000.
Fuji apples were developed in Fujisaki, Japan, in the 1930s. Known as one of the most physically beautiful apple varieties, they are characterized by their large size, sugary-sweet flavor, and distinct crispness.
Finally, Granny Smith apples originated in Australia in the 1860s. They are known for their light green color and are more commonly used in baking than in on-the-go eating. Although you have probably seen many of these apples in the produce section, have you ever wondered what happens before an apple gets to the grocery store?
Washington state is currently the largest apple-producing state in the country, producing over 171 million bushels in 2018. Washington is followed by New York and Michigan in apple production; however, they produce less than 20% of what Washington produces in a year. The season for apple harvesting spans from July to late October, with peak harvest occurring in September. After apples are harvested (when they are high in sugar and low in starch), they are transported to packaging facilities and quality-checked before arriving in grocery stores. It is paramount that apples remain chilled throughout the transportation process in order to preserve the flavor and texture of the succulent fruit.
Consumers then select the apples of their eyes from the options in the store. Apples are a popular fruit in the United States. If you include the consumption of apples in their juiced form, they are by far the most consumed fruit in the country. Beyond the delicious taste that apple-eaters can gain from crunching on those little red guys, there are great health benefits from consuming apples.
Apples have a lot of fiber, nutrients, water, and antioxidants. These elements, according to Healthline, mean that consuming apples could lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Although eating apples seemingly has some long-term and big-picture health benefits, they can also help you in short run. High-fiber foods like apples are great for gut health and digestion, meaning that apples can move through you at the speed of light (not actually that fast, but they help you poop). Moreover, the vitamin C in apples is great for your immune system.
Although these benefits are incredible, my belief is that this is not what should be driving your apple consumption. Rather, you should pursue apples in your search for the great delicious (but don’t get Red Delicious, those are never great). Get crunchin’ on those crispy orbs, CC!