One of the most popular quotations of the 19th Century was "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Before the 20th Century there were no official four food groups, food guide pyramid or specific science that pointed to the importance of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. People simply recognized the healthy attributes of the apple.
Although we can't be certain who first cultivated the wild apple, many believe it was the Romans who discovered they could cultivate these wild apples into sweet and juicy fruits. In the 13th Century BC, Ramses II ordered cultivated varieties of apples planted in the Nile delta. In ancient Greece, apples were being grown in a very limited quantity. Since they were so expensive, it was decreed that a bridal couple would have to share one apple on their wedding night.
When early European explorers returned from their travels and introduced new fruits and vegetables into Europe, the Europeans often didn't know what to call them. To them, the name "apple" symbolized all fruits and at one time the name "apple" was used for melons, avocados, cashews, cherimoyas, dates, eggplants, lemons, oranges, peaches, pineapples, pine nuts, pomegranates, potatoes, quinces and tomatoes. The poet Robert Frost found this amusing and penned this poem:
The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple's a rose.
Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world. At present there are at least 7,500 different varieties that vary in shape, color, texture, firmness, crispness, acidity, juiciness, sweetness, nutritional value, and harvesting period. And there is lots of folklore to go along with the varieties. An ancient Greek who wanted to propose to a woman would only have to toss her an apple. If she caught it, he knew she had accepted his offer.
Some unique and curious customs have faded into obscurity. Throughout history, apples have symbolized luxury, pleasure, love, fertility, and even jealousy. In Greek mythology, from the garden of the Hesperides, golden apples were given to Hera as a wedding gift at her marriage to Zeus. Modern Greek scholars believe that the golden apples of the Hesperides were actually oranges or lemons.
Hippocrates, the Greek physician considered the father of medicine, was a proponent of nutritional healing. His favorite remedies were apples, dates, and barley mush. Apples, especially green apples, contain malic and tartaric acids that assist digestion. Their high fiber content adds bulk that aids the digestive process. Apples contain pectin, a soluble fiber that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract and may help with glucose metabolism. Apples contain flavonoids, antioxidants that improve immune function and may help to prevent heart disease and some cancers. Because of their high water content, apples help people to stay hydrated.
Add chopped green apples to your tossed salad. Slice green apples and add to your peanut butter or nut butter sandwich. Add crunch to a fruit salad with diced apples. Make a Waldorf salad with diced green apples, diced celery, raisins, and mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. Try an unbaked apple for breakfast. In a bowl, combine raisins, nuts, chopped dried pineapple and chopped dates. Core the apple, fill the cavity with some of the fruit-nut mixture, and surround the apple with the remainder. If you enjoy cooking historical dishes, you can even revive an 1849 apple dumpling dish. Peeled and core green apples, fill the cavities with dried fruits and spices, and enclose the apples in pastry dough. Baked until the pastry is golden and the apple soft.
PAIRING APPLE AND PEAR SALAD
2 medium sliced green apples
2 medium ripe sliced pears
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Mix apples, pears and celery. Combine orange juice zest, syrup, cinnamon , nutmeg and ginger in a small bowl. Pour over apple mixture; toss until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Arrange apple mixture on salad greens.