An Ingredient’s Tale: Apples – Queen of the Fall

by Erin Cabana.

If you’re anything like me, once the weather starts turning colder your thoughts turn to what we think of as traditional fare in New England: Pies and stews, soups and roasts, mulled wines and ciders. Thoughts turn to fall activities – corn mazes, pumpkin picking, hay rides, and that most important of New England traditions – apple picking.


Picking apples is something I’ve done just about every fall since I can remember; you load everyone into the family car and off you go to the orchard to pick as many apples as you can carry (and when you’re small, that’s not really all that many, but you still try!). But have you ever stopped to wonder, where did apples come from? Almost everyone is familiar with the tale of Johnny Appleseed, and how apples were spread across this fine country, but where did they come from before then? England? France? Italy? And if you plant the seed from the apple, do you get that type, or something else?


Apples are originally from central Asia and can still be found growing there in the wild today.  Currently, there are more than 7500 different varieties of cultivated apples, ranging from the well-known (Macoun, Cortland and Pink Lady) to more ancient varieties (Arkansas Black, Claygate Pearmain and Harry Master’s Jersey to name a few.) Apples have been selectively bred over the years for traits such as eating, cider production, storing and cooking, and there have been as many types of apples bred as there are people who eat them (Ok…probably not that many, but with 7500 different varieties it’s safe to say everyone will find one they like!)

Apple Grafting

Apple Grafting

So now, when you’re strolling around that orchard, or eating that apple pie or sipping that hot mulled cider, you know a little bit more about the apple’s background, and can probably impress your friends and family with your new apple knowledge!

Erin Cabana works full time at a biopharmaceutical company in town. When not ordering chemicals for her team, she spends her time knitting, practicing yoga, gardening and researching both ancient and medieval foods. She can be found wandering the Plymouth Farmer’s Market looking for ingredients to use in her translations of recipes from Ancient to Modern or poking around Plimoth Plantation asking about their heirloom varieties of vegetables and animals.


About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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