I am fascinated with apples. The more I read about them the more I appreciate what a complex plant they are.
Apples don't grow true to type. If you plant a Granny Smith apple seed, you won't end up with a Granny Smith apple tree. They may not even be the same size or shape or color as a Granny Smith. There are endless combinations of apple tree genetic results.
When orchardists find a tasty apple tree through their breeding experiments, they graft the fruit-bearing branches onto pre-decided root stock, chosen for its hardiness, height, resistance to pests or other factors.
The original tree that produced the new variety is still one whole ungrafted tree. Its genetic recombination can't be reliably replicated, so in order to have two (or twenty) trees producing the same new variety, they are duplicated by "copying and pasting". Benefits of this method of propagation include predictable taste, yields, and season length.
Each original apple tree is suited to its own local environment of temperature, humidity, and resistance or susceptibility to pests. When a local tree is discovered bearing a new variety, grafts that are taken to parts of the country with different environments may need more monitoring or higher maintenance. If they become overly dependent on external fertilizers or pesticides, the plant may become less hardy, or produce less fruit.
Whether it is grown from a pip or grafted, a good local apple tree is well adapted to its surroundings. These trees are less likely to have issues with pests or weather extremes, and more likely to be long-lived. And on top of that, their abundant apple yields make for a delicious harvest.
There are 7500 known cultivars of apple varieties in the world. In Manitoba we cultivate the Prairie Magic and Goodland varieties that were developed in our own province, as well as Geminis and Battlefords that were developed in Saskatchewan. There are also Norkents and Norlands and other varieties that aren't native to here, but are well adapted to our environment.
There are so many versatile ways to eat apples. There are pies and crumbles and cakes, apple butters and apple jellies, spiced apples preserved whole in syrup. There's applesauce and apple fruit leather. They can be dehydrated whole, or dried in slices for snacks and trail mixes. Dried apples can also be added to herbal tea blends.
Making apple juice
You can juice them raw for that fresh, tangy taste. You can ferment this juice into homemade sodas. You can make hot cider to enjoy at gatherings during the cold winter months, or ferment the juice into hard cider, wine, or apple cider vinegar.
You can cook down underripe apples to make pectin, the original way to thicken other preserves. They can be baked with vegetables and roasts, or added to stir fry dishes. You can eat them plain or with peanut butter and chocolate chips. If you're skilled you can even carve them.
With so many satisfying ways to enjoy apples, it's no wonder they're the top fruit we rescue every year!