It’s October! The leaves are changing, the weather is turning crisp, both NFL and college football are hitting the heart of their seasons, baseball playoffs are underway (go Cards!) and rock radio stations are celebrating Rocktober!!!
In addition, October is also National Apple Month!
Apples are one of the most consumed fruits in the United States. Apples trail bananas in terms of consumption as a fresh fruit, but apple juice and canned apples make apples the most consumed fruit. IFOD on Bananas.
Most Popular Apples
There are about 7,500 varieties of apples and more than 100 varieties of apples are commercially produced in the U.S. However, just 15 varieties make up 90% of domestic apple production. Source.
Here are the ten most popular apple types in the United States:
- Gala. This barely edged out Red Delicious last year to take the crown as the most popular apple.
- Red Delicious. The most popular for five decades until 2018.
- Granny Smith
- Honeycrisp. This apple has exploded in popularity and transformed the apple industry
- Golden Delicious
- Pink Lady
Personally, my favorite lately has been the Envy. Pricey, but worth it IMO.
What’s Up With All These New Varieties?
In the grocery store most fruits just come in one variety, like blueberries and strawberries, or just a few varieties, like oranges. Apples used to be similar. As a child I remembered grocery stores just having Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths. Now there are many types of apples that consumers can buy. I counted 12 varieties at my Trader Joe’s.
As noted in an NPR story from 2014, “There’s an apple renaissance underway, an ever-expanding array of colors and tastes in the apple section of supermarkets and farmers markets.” What is responsible for the proliferation of apple varieties in stores?
The three apples that dominated production – Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are hearty apples. They are easy to grow, good to store, and ship well (don’t bruise easily). Historically, apples were produced for these characteristics primarily and taste was secondary.
Then came the Honeycrisp. It was actually developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has exploded in popularity over the last decade. According to Bloomberg, “unlike the vast majority of modern commercial produce, the Honeycrisp apple wasn’t bred to grow, store or ship well. It was bred for taste: crisp, with balanced sweetness and acidity.” But the Honeycrisp has thin skin, bruises easily and is difficult to grow. What convinced growers to produce Honeycrips is that they are so delicious consumers are willing to pay 2-3x the price of other apples. So, even with their issues, Honeycrisp apples are very profitable for most growers.
Here’s Dan Pashman on the Sporkful podcast: “Yeah, I’m not allowed to buy Honeycrisp in my house. Like if I come home with Honeycrisp, my wife will be like inspecting the receipt. She’ll be like, ‘If these were not on sale you are going back to the store. We don’t make Honeycrisp money.’“
With Honeycrisp as a template, the apple industry has been experimenting with various new types of apples. This is done through “apple clubs” which own the rights to an apple variety. Growers must pay to join the club to grow a particular apple. Here’s an interesting article from NPR on apple clubs: article.
Some new club apples that have recently hit the market vying to be the next Honeycrisp include Sweetango and the Cosmic Crisp. Many of the new apple varieties were created at universities. University of Minnesota created the Honeycrisp and Sweetango and Washington State University created the Cosmic Crisp.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
This saying was derived from the old English saying, “Ate an apfel avore gwain to bed, make the doctor beg his bread,”
Studies have found that consumption of apples may:
- Help with weight loss
- Be good for our brains and help prevent Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative declines
- Reduce the incidence of many cancers including: Breast, Pancreatic, Colon, Liver, Prostrate, and Bowel.
- Improve cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease. Notably, “A 2013 University of Oxford (UK) study found that eating one apple a day may be just as beneficial as daily statin use when it comes to preventing vascular deaths in individuals over 50.” Bam!
- Improves gut health.
- Sources: US Apple Research Summary, British Medical Journal, Cornell Study on Apples and Breast Cancer
Apples and the Garden of Eden
In the book of Genesis in the Bible, Adam was the first human and he lived in bliss in the Garden of Eden with all his needs cared for. He was instructed by God that he could eat whatever he wanted except that he was not to eat from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Eve was created shortly thereafter. Adam and Eve were encouraged by a serpent to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, which they did and were expelled from paradise. Here’s the verse from Genesis:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.-Genesis 3:6 (King James Version)
Note that the fruit is not specified. Nowhere in the story of Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge is there a mention of what sort of fruit the tree bore. It almost certainly was not an apple as apples were not grown, or even known, in the Middle East during biblical times. While the exact origins of the apple being the forbidden fruit are not known, a popular theory is that it comes from Milton using an apple as the forbidden fruit in Paradise Lost.
Scientists mapped the genome of the Golden Delicious apple and found that it had more than 57,000 genes. This is a ton of genes – more than has been found in any other plant and over twice as many genes as humans have.
Sequencing the apple genome, scientists discovered that the ancestor of modern apples is from Asia, not Europe, as some had previously been thought.
Sequencing the Apple genome will assist in breeding new types of apples with desirable traits such as better taste and improved disease and drought resistance.