The birthplace of the apple is just at the border of Kazakhstan and China in a place appropriately named Almaty – which translates as full of apples. The first apples were found growing wild there.
Today there are over 7000 varieties of apples worldwide and approximately 1500 varieties we can grow here in BC. China is the number one apple producer, followed by the US, Iran, Turkey, Russia and Italy and India. Apples are relatively cheap here but were once valuable enough to trade for land!
Hmmm, just when you though an apple was a kind of ho-hum fruit...
In Japan, apples are painstakingly thinned, bagged and turned in order to make a perfect blemish-free apple, which goes for about 10 dollars an apple. The biggest ones often have stencils applied to them which when peeled off creates a stencil shadow of pale gold. These sell for over 100 dollars each!
Health benefits? Apples are a good source of vitamin C, some varieties having more than an orange! They are also a source of dietary fibre and antioxidants and are of course…low in calories.
At Art's, you can find a number of wonderful varieties, a bit more exciting than the three or four you may commonly find in the grocery store. If you are adventurous, you may just be able to try growing your own varieties in your yard or even in a large pot if it’s a dwarf variety.
If you hunt, you may just be able to find some of the wonderful old and new varieties such as Ribston Pippin (the parent of the Cox Orange Pippin), Cox Orange Pippin, Lady Apple (one of the first named varieties from the courts of France in the 1600), Burnside Large Cooker - a farmstead variety from Cortez Island – one will make a pie!
There is also Winter Banana, my sisters’ favorite; when ripe it tastes a bit like banana bread. Chenango Strawberry tastes like strawberry ice wine. Sweet Sixteen is one of my faves and tastes like strawberries and banana. Goldgelb is another; it looks like the innocuous Golden Delicious, but has a lovely sweet tangy citrusy crunch. Macoun is a wonderful sweet, tangy apple that I love using in salads…it stays white when cut for a long time! Haralson has a lovely peppery bite, and Pink Princess is sweet and juicy and bright pink inside! Pitmastons Pineapple is a smallish uglyish apple that tastes like…yup, you guessed it, pineapple.
Lodi apple is one of the best for apple sauce and get ready, because with Lodi you’ll be making a lot of it!
Liberty is one apple I like to call the Sherman Tank of apples, I think you could probably drag it behind your truck, plant it and it will still try to give you fabulous apples. I have a Liberty on dwarf rootstock I forgot to stake and the huge crop of apples one year tipped it over. I now call it my grouncover apple tree, and yes it still produces! If you think that an apple is just an apple, think again!
(editors note: not all are commonly available but we'll do our best to hunt them down for you if you're interested! Special orders on some varieties can be arranged)
You can grow your own and find some of these and more cool varieties at Arts, or you can check out your local Fraser Valley Farm Fresh Guide, they have it online too or you can come and visit me and some of the other BC Fruit Testers in apple tasting events around the Lower Mainland like the UBC apple festival, and Derby Reach Apple days, and have your own pomological adventure!
Now, in order to produce an apple, a tree has to be mature enough to bloom usually about 3 to 5 years. Then once the blossoms are formed it needs to be cross pollinated with a different apple tree which has fertile pollen, and yes, all this is done by your friendly neighborhood bee. That means you need at least two trees to produce apples. Crabapples with long bloom times will often do the trick nicely too! Can you grow an apple from seed? Yes…though about 1 in 5000 produces a tasty apple. Feeling lucky? Because the apple seeds are a combination of the two different apples (the tree that produces the blossom and the pollinator, the seed you plant will not make the same kind of tree as the apple the seeds came from. Cool eh!