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Are apples harbingers of evil? Or just a delicious, crisp fall treat?

Paul Cappiello Ph.D.

Paul Cappiello Ph.D.

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens Executive Director

Apple pie. Apple crisp. The crunch of a crisp, fresh apple. It’s enough to make you forget the mosquitoes of summer biting the back of your knees, the burn of salt laden sweat in your eyes… the oppressive humidity of the dog days. 

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away but for those of us who wait all season for the fall crop, an apple a day is what gets us out of bed in the morning and keep us going right through to dessert.

The domestic apple – generally going under the moniker of Malus domestica – is a marvel of both ancient and modern agriculture. It can be eaten fresh, right off the tree. It can be sauced, baked, pied and turned over. Its juice has donned the Gerber baby’s face for decades. And its fermented juice – cider – well it’s the only thing that makes it possible to endure the incessant flutes and silly fake accents at fall Renaissance festivals. For millennia, cider sustained whole cultures during times of unreliable access to fresh drinking water. 

But through history, apples have also had a sinister side. Or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe…

Be that as it may, we all have a pretty good idea of what an apple is today. But of course we all don’t agree on what constitutes a good apple.

My taste in apples tends to the older, tarter apples. To me there’s nothing as good as a fresh, crisp McIntosh, Winesap, Rome or even a Mutsu. A fresh Golden Delicious will do in a pinch. They’re all great cooking apples as well. Then there are the more modern favorites like Honey Crisp, Fuji and Braeburn. They’re all fine, I guess, if you have to eat them to survive. But they don’t cook worth a darn. And finally there’s the Red Delicious – probably they greatest travesty ever pulled over the eyes of the apple eating public. It has and insanely long shelf life but its texture is akin to a half-used bar of Ivory soap. 

Then a number of years ago there was the much-anticipated introduction of Cosmic Crisp. Growers bulldozed older orchards and even ancestral homes to make room for this gift from Heaven. And then it hit the market… with an audible thud. It has the shelf life of a clay brick but the texture and flavor of a crunchy water balloon. 

And finally, we get to the pie issue. Apple pie is as much a part of America as… well… apple pie. And as such, it should be eater properly. Now there are two kinds of people in the world when it comes to apple pie. There are those who consume their pie as God intended it – cold and right out of the refrigerator. I know this, of course, because Eve herself told me so. And then there are the poor, unenlightened souls who insist on eating their pie warm. To those people I say, “that’s just down right Malus!”

Be that as it may, we all have a pretty good idea of what an apple is today. But of course we all don’t agree on what constitutes a good apple.

My taste in apples tends to the older, tarter apples. To me there’s nothing as good as a fresh, crisp McIntosh, Winesap, Rome or even a Mutsu. A fresh Golden Delicious will do in a pinch. They’re all great cooking apples as well. Then there are the more modern favorites like Honey Crisp, Fuji and Braeburn. They’re all fine, I guess, if you have to eat them to survive. But they don’t cook worth a darn. And finally there’s the Red Delicious – probably they greatest travesty ever pulled over the eyes of the apple eating public. It has and insanely long shelf life but its texture is akin to a half-used bar of Ivory soap. 

Then a number of years ago there was the much-anticipated introduction of Cosmic Crisp. Growers bulldozed older orchards and even ancestral homes to make room for this gift from Heaven. And then it hit the market… with an audible thud. It has the shelf life of a clay brick but the texture and flavor of a crunchy water balloon. 

And finally, we get to the pie issue. Apple pie is as much a part of America as… well… apple pie. And as such, it should be eater properly. Now there are two kinds of people in the world when it comes to apple pie. There are those who consume their pie as God intended it – cold and right out of the refrigerator. I know this, of course, because Eve herself told me so. And then there are the poor, unenlightened souls who insist on eating their pie warm. To those people I say, “that’s just down right Malus!”

This article was originally submitted to the Courier Journal on September 13, 2022.

About the Author

Blurb about Paul here.

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