Apples are among the most common fruits eaten in the US and Europe. They grow just about anywhere. There are many varieties; most are small to medium-sized tree. These members of the rosacea family have characteristic five-petaled flowers appear in the spring. The petals are white on top and pink underneath so that they look bright pink during the budding stage. The pistils and stamens are bright yellow. The leaves are oval-shaped with serrated edges, shiny green on top and slightly fuzzy underneath.
Fruit appears in late summer and ripens in autumn. Fruit can be red (red delicious), yellow (golden delicious), green (granny smith), or streaked red with yellow.
History and Folklore
Apples grow wild in most of Europe. They have a very long history and are revered by many people. They are mentioned in old Saxon manuscripts and twenty-two varieties were mentioned by Pliny. Now there are more than two thousand cultivated varieties.
Once upon a time, in parts of Britain, people wassailed their orchard trees on Christmas Eve to ensure their abundant fruiting the next year. The farmer and his family and helpers would go out to the orchard with cakes and cider and throw cider over the trees and place the cakes in their branches. They’d drink to the health of the trees, saying something like this-
”Here’s to thee old apple tree”
”Whence thou may’st bud”
”And whence thou may’st bud”
”Hats full! and Caps full!”
”Bushel- bushel bags full!”
”And my pockets full too!”
This is said to have evolved from customs involving sacrifices to Pomona.
In the Edda, an old Scandinavian Saga, Iduna kept apples that the Gods would eat to ensure their eternal youth. In Greek folklore, the Hesperides guard apple trees that will provide the same gift to those who eat of them. Although the Bible never actually says so, many people believe that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was an apple.
The Trojan war was started when the Goddess Eris threw an apple into the midst of a party of Goddesses, saying that it was for ‘the fairest’.
The sacred Isle of Avalon is also known as the Isle of Apples.
Apples are believed to be the preferred food of the dead in many faiths and make great offerings.
For most varieties, you must plant two trees for pollination. Most trees will not produce fruit their first year and some may not produce much fruit until their third or fourth year. Dwarf varieties generally fruit quicker. Excessive pruning will cause plants to take longer to fruit.
Harvesting & Storage
Pick your apples when they are ripe. Apples must be picked by hand to avoid damage (don’t shake the tree) though windfall apples (on the ground) can be gathered, the bad parts cut off, and the apples cooked that same day. Undamaged apples store very well in a cool spot provided they are kept clean and dry. Apples can be made into applesauce or apple butter and canned or baked in pies and frozen. They can also be dried. Just slice them thin and lay them out to dry in the sun, or use a food dehydrator.
Apple leaves can be plucked any time and dried like any other herb.
Gather apple blossoms when they bloom in the spring and dry by your preferred method.
Gather branches for wands and wreaths after a storm.
Apples are sacred to many Goddesses including Aphrodite, Iduna, Freya, Pomona, Eris and through various folklore, Apples are associated with love, fidelity, fertility, marriage, beauty, vanity, wisdom, the soul, the afterlife and immortality. Apples are arguably the most magical and symbolism-laden of fruits.
If you slice an apple width-wise, you can see a five-pointed star. They are often used cut this way to decorate altars during harvest rituals.
Apple blossoms can be used in love and healing incense.
To ensure fidelity, give an apple to your lover as a gift. You eat one half, the lover the other.
Apples are a symbol of immortality and are given as an offering to the dead on Samhain.
Pour apple cider on the ground in your garden before you plant to give the earth life.
Applewood is used to make wands.
If you peel an apple all in one piece and throw the peel over your shoulder, it will fall in the shape of your future mate’s initials.
Dried apples and branches can be used to make fragrant wreaths and other decorations. To dry the apples, just slice them thin and lay them out to dry in the sun. Branches can be braided into a wreath like any other wreath.
Apples are high and fiber and can be used to treat constipation. Granny Smith apples are great for this, eaten before bedtime. Stewed apples may be used as a gentle, but fast-acting laxative.
They contain malic and tartaric acids which help neutralize the chemicals associated with gout.
The pectin in fresh apples can help treat heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.
Apples are a great snack when you are having a low blood sugar moment.
Crushed apple leaves can be placed on a fresh wound to prevent infection.
The unsweetened juice will reduce acidity in the stomach, aid in digestion and help sour stomach.
The act of eating a whole apple (not sliced and peeled) cleans the teeth and freshens the breath. It helps remove plaque and push back the gums to remove deposits.
The bacterium that causes typhoid fever dies in apple juice, so water of questionable wholesomeness can be mixed with cider or apple juice. (Of course, boiling is always best!)
For all feverish conditions; slice an apple and place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer till the apple is soft. Strain and chill. Serve cold.
Apples are great raw and in pies, breads, apple sauce, and apple butter. They are also good baked or candied. High in pectin, they are often used with other fruit to help jellies jell.
Apples are very easy to digest, the entire process taking only about 80 minutes. The sugars pass quickly into the bloodstream which makes it a good snack for those low blood sugar moments.
Apples have properties that make them good companions for other food. Cabbage and its relatives are known for containing chemicals that aggravate gout, apples contain chemicals that neutralize these and so apples are a good companion for cabbage. Also, apples help digest fats making them good companions for fatty meats, such as pork and duck. They are complemented well by warm (fire and sun corresponding) herbs such as ginger, cinnamon and allspice.