Click HERE to read a Sufi story on rotten apples leading to unexpected good.
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This member of the rose family--with some 7,500 varieties (50 of them grown commercially)-- lives long, is easy to grow, and thrives just about anywhere.
According to ancient tradition, of course, it is said to be the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Certainly it is pictured as such in most western paintings, from earliest times to the present. And the garden, it turns out, may well have been in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, where botanists now believe the domestic apple began--in an ancient wild species called Malus sieversii. As the silk route passed through this area, which still blooms with 300-year-old, 50-foot trees, it is likely that nomads and traders pocketed the wild apples around Almaty--whose seeds then hybridized with at least two species of tiny, green sour apples (Malus orientalis and Malus sylvestris), and turned into the apple domesticated by the Romans then spread throughout the world. Cato knew only of some 6 varieties in the 2nd century BC; by the first century BC Pliny spoke of some 36--so that by the time Varus led his army to the Rhine in the first century AD, every region had its apples (his defeat at the hands of German Arminius and subsequent suicide is another story).
In addition, it was sacred to Greek goddess Aphrodite--and, of course, so started the Trojan War in a roundabout kind of way. How? It all started when Eris, goddess of discord and uninvited guest at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, crashed the party and threw a golden apple into the crowd...on which was inscribed "for the fairest." Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena all claimed it, of course, and in a dumb moment they chose Paris, a mortal, to settle the dispute. Open to bribery, he considered riches and power from Hera...glory in war from Athena...and finally gave in to Aphrodite's blandishments: nothing less than the woman of his choice. Unfortunately, "Helen" happened to be married, and when she was abducted to Troy (where Paris lived, the son of Priam), of course, she "launched a thousand ships" from Greece.
So where'd it get the name "apple"? Likely from the Latin abella, the name of a Campanian town that was renowned for its orchards and whose fruits were likely carried to the Roman frontier in England...subsequently it became the Old English aeppel, which meant fruit, eyeball, anything round.
In America, apples were spread by settlers who were most particularly interested in the kick they could get from the hard cider they could make from them. The first seeds were planted in New England by members of the Massachusetts Bay Company around 1629. And, thus, the American folk hero Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple seeds everywhere he went.
And what about the science of these orchard treasures? Today they are complex selections and hybrids of Malus pumila, Malus sylvestris,and Malus mitis--so they're shaped differently (from rounds, to cones, to flat buns), colored differently (green, yellow, orange, red, and purple), textured differently, more or less juicy, dry, acidic, bitter, sweet, or aromatic. ALL of them, though, are indented at the stalk end, have a left over flower at the other end, and a tough core with brown seeds that are laced with cyanide.