Seasonal Eating: As American as Apple Pie

By October 15, 2013Seasonal Eating

If you love apples and apple juice as much as I do you will most likely remember the first time you tasted
the best apple or apple juice of your life.


For me, it was during my senior year of high school on a class trip to Europe. We had stopped for a day in a small little German medieval walled town called Heidelberg. I remember little else about the city except for the fact that it was there I tasted my first glass of fresh pressed, unfiltered apple juice. It was like heaven in a cup. Believe me, at this point in my life I am pretty sure I have told everyone I know about this story. See, I am telling you all now too! It’s no secret…I LOVE APPLES!

To Americans the apple is synonymous with “American.” American as apple pie, we like to say, right? Well I got to reminiscing the other day about my love of apples, and now that it’s fall and apples are appearing in our AHO boxes, I decided to look a little further into the history of the apple and how it made its way to our country and into our hearts.

Apples are Ancient History

The apple is believed to have originated as a wild species of fruit in the forests of Kazakhstan and by 8,500 BCE the trees were being actively cultivated in the region. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of apples in pre-historic lake regions in Switzerland, believed to date back to the iron age. They have been noted in sources from Ancient Egypt, Rome, and China, where the fruit had mostly likely appeared due to both human and animal means of dispersion (trade, consumption etc). Apples had made their way to Western Europe by the Middle Ages where both the fruit, and the juice, became a staple of the noble diet. By 1470 CE a scientific study of apples was included in a German “Herbal” or medieval scientific book on plants and flowers. The famed playwright Shakespeare even mentions the fruit 13 times in his plays. A good sign that the fruit was solidly established in the European lexicon by this time.

Apples in America

No real edible species of apple (aside from a few native species of crab-apple) existed in the Americas until the arrival of English pilgrims in the early 17th cen. By the end of the 17th century European settlers in America had established vast apple orchards. The fruit was grown primarily for the production of cider (considered safer than water), rather than for immediate consumption of the fruit alone.  By the early 19th century, apple cider had become not only a common drink but a form of currency for bartering.  It was also seen as a more “patriotic drink” than wine, which was the beverage of choice for Europeans. At this point, apple seeds began to make their way westward where they thrived in the Pacific Northwest, especially the state of Washington, due to its warm days, cool nights, volcanic soil and irrigated valleys. Today Washington State holds the title of top producer of apples in America.


Apple Juice vs. Apple Cider

Today there is little distinction in America between apple cider and apple juice, even though traditionally they were two very separate things. There are many theories as to why this is; one idea is that the 19th century temperance movement, and eventually Prohibition, led to apple cider falling out of favor with Americans.Traditionally, apple cider was a means of preserving apples. It was created from fermented apple juice (without the addition of sugar), resulting in a slightly alcoholic and bubbly beverage (about 5% alcohol).  Today the term is more commonly associated with fresh, unprocessed apple juice.  Real apple cider is now more commonly found under the name “hard cider” and remains a popular drink among Europeans.


An Apple A Day: The Benefits of Unfiltered Juice

We are all aware that apples are not only delicious but good for us. Eating 1-2 whole apples every day can have dramatic health benefits ranging from reducing the risk of heart disease to helping you fight off the common cold. If you are like me, and you LOVE apple juice, there is good news on that front as well. Unfiltered apple juice isn’t just delicious, studies have shown it is better for you than filtered juice. According to a recent study conducted by Cornell University, unfiltered apple juice may be a powerful natural medicine in the fight against breast cancer. Further, unfiltered juice packs a powerful punch of four times as many antioxidants as filtered apple juice. Guess there is something to that old saying, “An apple a day…”

Want to make your own unfiltered juice, head here for a recipe: Homemade Apple Juice

We here at AHO headquarters love apple recipes. Here are a few of our favorites:

Can’t get enough Apple Info? Find out more about our AHO Apple Farmer, Augustine Cardenas, in our
Meet Your Farmer Blog Series

Author Jessica Lessard

More posts by Jessica Lessard

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