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Origins of a Favorite Fall Fruit – The Apple


The following is an archived post

In much of the U.S., each of the four seasons is known for a particular mood it evokes. This feeling is often associated with that season’s specific weather, the holidays of that time of year, the school calendar, and of course, food!

As fall approaches, for example, we are all greeted with tons of information about the harvest as well as suggestions for how to prepare those seasonal items. Like clockwork, this time of year is when nutrition and health professionals feature apples in healthy eating promotions and in a multitude of content.

This year, in addition to touting the apple’s healthfulness and deliciousness (apples come in a number of varieties and are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and those fantastic disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals! Whew!), we delve deeper into the history of the ever-popular apple.

Apples seem to have originated thousands of years ago in the region of Central Asia and Eastern Europe – what is now Kazakhstan. Apples then traveled and subsequently spread along the Silk Road trading route. The Romans brought sweet apples from western Asia into Europe, where the less palatable relatives of sweet apples, crabapples, were used for cider.

A new study that examined DNA samples of a number of apple species ranging from Spain to China confirmed that modern apples were first domesticated from Asian sweet apples, but that crosses with those European crabapples—possibly selected for disease resistance, hardiness, or other genetic traits—actually contributed the most DNA to modern domesticated apples.

So without those bitter crabapples, apples likely wouldn’t be among the top consumed fruit in the U.S. or among the most valuable fruit crops. This fall, try some less familiar apple varieties to broaden your apple palate and reap nutritional benefits!

Sources: Cornille A, Gladieux P, Smulders MJM, Roldán-Ruiz I, Laurens F, et al. (2012) New Insight into the History of Domesticated Apple: Secondary Contribution of the European Wild Apple to the Genome of Cultivated Varieties. PLoS Genet 8(5): e1002703. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002703

Commodity Apple Profile; http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/fruits/apples/commodity_apple_profile.cfm

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