Legend of the Apple

Apples, sparkling red or greenish-gold, have been one of humanity's best friends since the dawn of recorded history. As wheat has been looked upon as the "staff of life," so apples have been the hallmark of a better life in every civilization in the Northern Hemisphere.

The apple, as we know it, probably originated in Central and Southwestern Asia; historical evidence shows that cultivation of the apple started with the beginning of agriculture in Europe. The earliest historical records of Egypt, Babylon, and China mention the apples, as do the Bible, the Code of Manu, and the writings of the Greeks in the 4th Century BC. We know that stone-age dwellers of Central Europe used them not only for eating, but also for preserving. These early apples were probably small and astringent--rather like wild apples or crabapples--far removed from the fine, carefully developed apple varieties we know today.

Apples were introduced to England during the Roman invasion in the first century BC. Later, their cultivation was appropriated by Christian monasteries. Monks sought out isolated places, drained swamps and terraced mountains to make their apple orchards and vineyards abundant and fruitful. These ancient cultivation methods were inherited by the peasant, serf, knight, and lord of the Middle Ages, becoming the foundation of precise apple orcharding.

In America, the first apple trees were planted in Massachusetts Bay by the pilgrims, just nine years after the first colony was established. By the middle of the 18th Century, the Dutch had grown apples extensively throughout New York State. As restless settlers pushed the Western frontier of the nation over the Appalachian Mountains into Ohio, Illinois, and beyond, they took apples with them. Each family unit had its own sack of apple seeds. Often, the family orchard was planted before ground was broken for the rude log dwellings that would be called home. Often, too, settlers in Ohio and Indiana found a thriving nursery of apples waiting for them, carved out of the wilderness and planted by devout, dedicated, friendly Jonathan Chapman--better know by his legendary name "Johnny Appleseed" through his generous spirit and impartial helpfulness.

Apples found their way to Washington State in 1826 on a Hudson's Bay Company sailing vessel. Seeds of a "good luck" apple were planted at Fort Vancouver, WA in the spring of 1827. From this auspicious beginning, the Washington apple industry has grown to national significance, producing about 100 million boxes of apples each season.

Legends surround this delicious fruit. Greek and Roman mythology honored the apple, particularly golden apples, as a symbol or reward of love and beauty. The Bible mentions the apple, both as the fruit that tempted Adam and Eve, and in the Songs of Solomon as well. Swiss folklore tells the tale of William Tell's heroic defiance of a tyrannical ruler by courageously shooting an apple from his son's head.

This time-honored fruit continues to be one of Nature's most beautiful works of art. Today, the apple represents hospitality and friendship, health and beauty, and best of all, good-for-you eating!

Eat a Washington apple and you'll agree!!

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