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The Tree of Love: Apples

Updated on March 6, 2018
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Kim has been gardening and growing her own food for over 27 years. She is a Master Gardener and loves to explore agricultural challenges.

Apples
Apples | Source

Since Adam and Eve

Our first mention of apple comes from the bible in the Garden of Eden. Eve ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge.

Apples have been a symbol of love for a milennia.

Apples are given to teachers... and were thrown at the one we loved, or used to poison princesses.

Apple wood is a hard wood and is used to build ax handles, smoke meats, and in bbq grills to impart flavor on the meats.

Apple flowers are used in floral waters for health and beauty.

Applecider vinegar is used to combat dermatitis and is a useful conditioner. It truly leaves the hair feeling super soft.

Apple pulp has been used in skin softening lotions.

Apple scents are used in candles and potporries to freshen the atmosphere and cheer the dreer of winter

And... An apple a day keeps the doctor away...

Apples keep fairly well in cold storage for winter. Always a plus for people living in the North... Bringing us to Apple pie, caramel apples, apple sauce, apple cider...and hundreds of other uses for apples. Apple smoked bacon, apple stuffed pork chops, apples over rice...

So when I saw a post in a gardening page the otherday from a woman in Panama looking for apple seeds, I stopped. I had to laugh, because I too am guilty of acquiring seeds for plants and trees that won't grow in my climate. The difference is, it's easier to warm things up than cool them down. I wanted to explain to this woman that she would never have apples. That an apple tree needed cold weather and dormancy, but she insisted she wanted apples. This thread sparked an additional debate over "true" fruit and whether or not she would get an apple or a crabapple...

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Apple BlossomsApples ripening on TreeRed Delicious ApplesGolden Delicious ApplesHoney Crisp ApplesGranny Smith Apples
Apple Blossoms
Apple Blossoms | Source
Apples ripening on Tree
Apples ripening on Tree | Source
Red Delicious Apples
Red Delicious Apples | Source
Golden Delicious Apples
Golden Delicious Apples | Source
Honey Crisp Apples
Honey Crisp Apples | Source
Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith Apples | Source

Growing an apple tree

Short answer: Yes, you can grow an apple tree from seed.

Typical answer: yes, but it won't be "true".

Long answer: the apples you buy at the store, organic or not, contain seeds and will grow an apple tree. It will take 5+ years for that tree to produce any fruit. When it produces fruit, it will probably not look or taste like the fruit you originally purchased.

Confused? I was too..... let's explore....

A few facts about apples (and trees)...

Apples hold true to their wood, not their seed...

Apple trees were brought from the old world to the new world sometime before the 1800's. Some accounts date the apple being planted in North America in the mid 1600's. Either way, Apple trees were once wild, some still are. Wild apples are smaller than store bought apples and larger than crabapples, which are apples. It is believed that the modern apple was cultivated from the crabapple.

The "cultivers" we find at the store were selected from the wild, groomed by the gardener, named, then either cloned or grafted to reliable root stock to create hundreds of trees producing identical fruit.

Clones: are an easy way to make an exact genetic duplicate of a tree, bush, shrub, flower.

Grafts: grafting is when a a branch from one tree is "attached" to another tree of a similar species.

Apples require another apple tree in order to produce fruit. Meaning anyone who wants to grow apples needs two trees of differing cultivers in the near vicinity to one another. Most apple growers rely on the crabapple for this purpose as they have a long blooming period.

There are so many apple varieties it would blow your mind.

The apples you buy at the store...they are real apples. If you want that apple, though, you will be better off finding and ordering that cultiver from a reliable grower.

Cold & Climate

Most apples are zoned 4-8. Apple trees need a period of dormancy and cold weather in order to complete their yearly cycle. A minimum of three months is needed for rest and renewal.

Apples or wood. Apple trees are "groomed" in early spring to encourage blossoms, and apples. There's an old saying about growing apples or wood. If you want apples, you trim the tree, if you want wood, let it be.

Zone Maps

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Making apples

In 1910, entrepreneurs decided the Bitterroot Valley in Montana had the perfect climate for a new industry. Apples. Hundreds of orchards were planted with thousands of trees...by 1920, it went belly up. Drought. Today, remnants of that boom remain on old homesteads and in new subdivisions, and a few of the old orchards are still in business. I frequent one such orchard regularly, trimming and caring for the old trees. There are three varieties of apples and a crabapple.

Two differing cultivers that flower at relatively the same time are needed to pollinate apple trees. Crabapples are the most reliable way to accomplish this, and they are edible too. Bees are the primary pollinators. Bees are also responsible for transferring the bacteria that results in trees catching fire blight.

Fire Blight is a plant disease caused by the bacteria (Erwinia amylovora) , and it is contagious. Blight is carried by winds and rain and transferred by bees in Spring during pollen collection. Trees are more susceptible to blight during humid conditions. Blight can be detrimental to trees that catch it. Wild crabapples (Malus floribunda) have shown resistance from the disease.

Our climate really is perfect for apples. Those old trees still produce delicious apples. Every Fall, Mcintosh and Honey Crisps flood farmer's market's up and down the valley, canning, baking, and freezing commences.

Apples or Wood

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Source
Source

Apple Snobs

There are more cultivers of apples than we are accustomed to seeing. I have some friends that own an orchard. They call themselves "apple snobs", which cracks me up. They own twenty plus varieties. There are Rome's and Dixie Delight, Braeburn, Gala, and I cant remember them all. There are thousands of "apples", though.

I have spent hours in the orchard tasting the difference, feeling the textures, and learning their uses. There are cider apples, baking apples, pie apples, eating apples, red, pink, yellow, green, streaked and dotted. Different cultivers ripen at different times. Some ripen early, like Transparents, most are best picked after a frost or two. My friends love apples and I m becoming quite fond of them as well.

We hold apple parties and pick apples, pressing parties for cider, and pies.....for my family, we do apple cake, apple sauce, applebutter, and apple fritters. We use fresh apples for roasting pork and pork chops. My Fall favorite is pie, steaming hot from the oven with a dolap of vanilla ice cream.


Fresh Apple Pie

  • 4-5c Apple, Chunks
  • 1 c Sugar
  • 1 TBL Thickener, (Tapioca flour, corn starch, arrowroot)
  • 1-2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1-2 TBL Butter, Cubed

Instructions

  1. Line pie plate with pie crust.
  2. Place sugar, thickener, cinnamon in a gallon ziploc bag. Add apple chunks and shake well to coat apples.
  3. Pour apples and sugar into pie plate. Top with butter. Place 2nd crust over the top. Seal the crusts together. Flute the top.
  4. Bake @ 350 for 45-60 minutes

I hope this clears things up a bit...

Yes, you can grow a tree...depending on where you live determines whether you will acquire fruit. And finally, what kind of fruit is anyone's guess...

Don't let that stop you though, I probably won't ever have a pineapple, but I grew one anyways. And who knows, given the right conditions, with luck of the seed, you might discover a new variety.

Leave your questions or comments below and Happy Gardening!

Apple Tree in Blossom
Apple Tree in Blossom | Source

© 2017 Kim French

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