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An apple a day...

History's Garden

With the annual Tehachapi Apple Festival on Oct. 14-15 this year, I thought it would be fun to take a look at apples in history.

The mother of all apple stories, of course, is in the Bible with Eve plucking the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and getting herself and Adam tossed out of Eden. The Bible doesn't specify that the fruit was an apple, and according to Wikipedia it could have been an apple, grape, fig, pomegranate or even a banana. In Western Europe the fruit was called an apple, probably due to the way the original Latin of the Bible was interpreted. Folks who believe the Garden of Eden was located in the Middle East suggest that the pomegranate was the culprit because it was indigenous to the area and has been cultivated since ancient times. Those in the banana camp point to a 13th Century translation of The Medical Aphorisms of Moses where the banana is called the "apple of Eden." Ultimately, the apple won out.

By the time of the Greeks (approximately 750 BC) the apple had made an image transformation worthy of an Oscar, now representing health, beauty, wisdom and immortality. One of the first stories about the apple representing beauty is that of the Golden Apple of Discord. A Golden Apple was tossed by an angry goddess (Discord) into the crowd at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis because she (Discord) had not been invited. The apple was inscribed, "to the fairest" and, of course, every goddess at the wedding wanted it. That sparked an argument about who was the fairest goddess of all. Helen took the title (and, of course) then all the men wanted her. Unfortunately, she was already married to King Menelaus. No problem. When the king was out of town, Paris stole Helen away, taking her to Troy and setting the stage for the Trojan War. Today, the term apple of discord means the crux of a small argument that could lead to a much bigger problem.

In 1505, the great Renaissance painter Raphael created "Three Graces," in which three lovely ladies are posed each holding an apple. One interpretation of the painting believes the ladies are the Greek goddesses Chastity, Beauty and Amor, but according to the Chateau de Chantilly institute of France (where the painting resides), the three ladies are Hesperides nymphs who made humans immortal by giving them apples.

Apples figure in science as well, most notably with regard to the law of gravity published in 1869 by Sir Isaac Newton. Legend has Newton sitting under an apple tree contemplating the universe when an apple hit him on the head giving him the "aha" moment. Reality was not that colorful, but did include an apple orchard and Newton's observations of falling fruit.

The saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is a fine example of the transformation of the apple's image from bad to good. The saying originated in Wales in 1866, in a slightly different format:

Eat an apple on going to bed,

And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread.

It wasn't until 1913 that the saying reappeared in today's form. Interestingly, in 2015, three doctors did a study of more than 8,000 adults to see if the recommendation was true. They defined "keeping the doctor away" as no more than one visit to a physician during the year. Study results did not support the saying, however a small fraction of the participants who ate an apple a day did appear to use fewer prescription drugs.

For some reason, in film apples are not usually seen as a good thing. In fact, film villains eating apples is almost a cliché. From "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" to "Pirates of the Caribbean" you'll find the bad guys using apples to represent their arrogance and confidence. And let's not forget Snow White's poison apple encounter. It's a miracle any of us still eat them.

Apples were first domesticated 7,000 to 10,000 years ago in China and traveled to Europe via the Silk Road (a network of Eurasian trade routes active from the second century BCE until the mid-15th century).

Apple trees were brought to America in 1620 by the Pilgrims who settled in what is now Massachusetts and they quickly spread throughout the colonies. In the early 1800s, John Chapman gained fame as Johnny Appleseed as he planted apple orchards in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. A savvy businessman and experienced nurseryman, Chapman would plant orchards ahead of arriving settlers. When pioneers moved into his area, he sold his thriving orchards at a considerable profit.

Commercial apple orchards came to Tehachapi in 1876, when according to "The Original Tehachapi Apple Book" by Claudia Elliott, a Bakersfield nurseryman filled "some large orders of fruit trees to be planted in the valley [Tehachapi]." In 1880, Moses Hale planted the first large commercial orchard in Tehachapi Canyon. In 1889, Fred Fickert promoted his orchard in Bear Valley Springs as a "natural Eden for apples and pears", and around the same time Joseph Kiser planted an orchard in Brite Valley Springs.

Over time the big commercial growers departed, but Tehachapi still has a thriving small-farm apple industry, which we celebrate every year with the Tehachapi Apple Festival. Come on out and join the fun! Find out how many different ways you can enjoy apples and apple related items.

California Apple Stacks

• 2 Fuji apples

• 3 slices thick cut bacon

• 4 oz Toma cheese or Jack cheese

• Basil sprigs

• Cream cheese, optional

Cut the bacon into squares and cook until crisp, set aside.

Cut cheese into small, thin chunks. Slice the apples crosswise into thin rounds and remove any seeds.

Make the stacks:

On top of an apple round add a piece of bacon then cheese. Top with a basil leaf. Hold everything together with a toothpick, or try a smidge of cream cheese between each layer.

Excerpted from the California Apple Commission Jan./Feb. 2023.

Caramelized Onion, Cheddar, Apple and Blueberry Grilled Cheese Sandwich

• 2 slices of crusty French bread

• 2 slices cheddar cheese

• 2 TBS (approx.) caramelized balsamic onions

• 2 TBS (approx.) fresh blueberries

• 1 apple, sliced

• Butter

Preheat a griddle/skillet over medium heat. Place a slice of cheese on one slice of bread. Top with caramelized onions, blueberries and apple slices. Top with second slice of cheese and remaining bread slice. Lightly butter bread before setting sandwich on grill. Grill until cheese is melted, flipping once.

Excerpted from the California Apple Commission Sept./Oct. 2021 Newsletter.

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