Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Did you know ...

... that there are more than 1000 varieties of apples, and that the world production of apples has roughly doubled since 1980? In 2005, world apple production was 62.4 million tons [1], or about 10 kg per capita of the world population.


I guess the apples from the many trees my parents and grandparents have planted in the gardens and the meadows at my native village are not included in the FAO statistics - but this year, harvest will be exceptionally plenty, approaching probably half a metric ton. That's most likely due to the very warm and sunny April and May, and the warm and wet July and August. There are many different varieties, such as Boskoop, Reinette Gris, Ontario (yes, it's also an apple - and I like it best) and one called "Countess of Paris" - unfortunately, I do not know all of them. We have even one tree out of the bunch of varieties of the globalised apple market - a Golden Delicious. While this seems to be the top variety in production worldwide, the tree in the garden seems not to like the place, or the climate - its apples are quite poor.

So, this year, there will be plenty of fresh apple juice, and apples to store in the cellar for long into next year - no need to go to the grocery store.


While in general the large harvest is a good thing, and most Germans will be happy to find plenty of home-grown apples this fall and winter, keeping all these apples fresh and juicy for consumption until next spring and summer poses an interesting problem, related to the "food mileage" debate: is it better - from an ecological point of view - to buy local groceries even if conventional, or to relay on imported organic vegetables? The problem was called the "apple dilemma" by the German weakly newspaper ZEIT: I was quite surprised to learn that shipping large containers of fresh organic apples from, say, Chile to Germany in April or May requires less energy and does less harm to the environment than to store the local harvest in refrigerated warehouses through the mild German winter.

Then, it's good to know to have your own home-grown apples in your cellar - at least until next spring, when I will again ponder about buying them in the supermarket (Chile? South Africa? Germany? I don't know yet...). Anyway, the most important thing about apples:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.


[1] Number from the FAOSTAT database of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - choose "apples" as commodity, and "World +" as the country



  1. Yes, apples are good for you, and the vinegar is even better (in moderation.) There is of course a certain famous apple incident, of which Wikipedia says in its article about Newton:


    Various trees are claimed to be "the" apple tree which Newton describes. The King's School, Grantham, claims that the tree was purchased by the school, uprooted and transported to the headmaster's garden some years later, the staff of the [now] National Trust-owned Woolsthorpe Manor dispute this, and claim that a tree present in their gardens is the one described by Newton. A descendant of the original tree can be seen growing outside the main gate of Trinity College, Cambridge, below the room Newton lived in when he studied there. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale [29] can supply grafts from their tree (ref 1948-729), which appears identical to Flower of Kent, a coarse-fleshed cooking variety.

    I heard once that Newton's apple tree had died, so I hope Woolsthorpe Manor is right. BTW Wikipedia points out that Newton's revelation the idea that gravity would extend on into space beyond the vicinity of the earth, not how things fall per se (already figured out by Galileo.) That led Newton to the 1/r^2 idea and to getting the correct period for the Moon.

  2. I eat upto six. If I had those lovely trees, I might eat even more.

    (I think if I'm in public and you see people walking away from me, they are likely to be doctors :) )

  3. What really annoys me though are those stupid stickers they put on the apples. Can't somebody use genetic engineering for a sensible purpose (who wants mice that glow in the dark?!) and grow an apple that has its number on the peel? ;-)

  4. Wie pflegte unsere Lehrerin zu sagen:
    Ein Apfel vor dem Schlafengehn,
    macht dass die Aerzte betteln gehn.

    Reim dich, oder ich fress dich!

  5. Hab Sonnschein im Herzen,
    Ein Bonbon im Mund,
    Iss viel Schokolade,
    Dann bleibst Du gesund.

    That's what I've been told :-)

  6. Google gives the following translations:

    As our teacher tended to say:
    An apple before the Schlafengehn,
    makes that the physicians beg gehn.

    Reim you, or I fress you!


    Have sunning light in the heart,
    A drop in the mouth,
    Eat much chocolate,
    Then you remain healthy.

  7. Not bad :-)

    As our teacher used to say:
    An apple before you go to bed,
    makes the physicians poor.

    Rhyme, or I eat you! (Is a German saying that means it's an enforced bad rhyme)

    The other one is roughly:

    Have sunlight in your heart,
    A candy in your mouth,
    Eat plenty of chocolate,
    Then you will remain healthy.

  8. Jum, I love apples! :)

  9. I ate three Estonian apples today... Yum!

  10. It's interesting that while the production of apples has doubled from 1980 to present, world population has only grown by 50%, from 4.4 bil in 1980 to 6.6 bil today. This means more apples per person are consumed today than it was in 1980.

    This I believe is related to the obesity epidemic. Economic conditions have improved worldwode in the last 25 years. As a consequence, people work fewer hours per week, eat a lot more, spend a lot more free time in front of TV, and become incredibly overweight. As they become overweight they need to eat even more just to sustain themselves.

    Those apples don't look as innocent as they are after all.

  11. Hi Stefan,
    "refreshing autumn apple post"
    in my nan's days they use to store apples even under the bed ...
    and turned many not so much into apple juice but good old cider.

    lol Neil we are still waiting for an apple to appear (and drop) outside Trinity College, Cambridge.

  12. I'm about to eat a

    Premium Eastern USA

    apple. Three cheers for the label!

  13. Hi chickenbreader,

    you raise a very interesting point! I was quite puzzled when I learned about the doubling of the world apple production over the last 25 years, and had a short discussion about that with Bee - we agreed that the world population had also increased since then, and that one should look at the per capita annual production - what is now the about 10 kg/(a · human). But we didn't check actual numbers...

    So yes, indeed, the per capita production has increased roughly by a factor 4/3, form about 7.5 kg/(a · human) since 1980!

    However, to make a connection to an increasing awareness about health/obesity issues, I guess the global apple production/consumption is not a good indicator. For example, I am not sure how much the consumption of, say, China has increased since. Such an increase may be caused by the general growth of the economy, with more and more people in cities who can afford fruits bought from supermarkets.

    But wait - the FAO database gives numbers also for specific countries, and here is China: Wow, the Chinese apple production has exploded from 4.3 million tons to 24.0 million tons!

    That's a big surprise! It means that the doubling of the production since 1980 is caused mainly by Chinese apples!

    Best, Stefan

  14. Hi Arun,

    I eat upto six. If I had those lovely trees, I might eat even more.

    Yeah, the real problem is that you need a cool place to keep them fresh. And while you would end up eating six+ apples per day in fall, I am not so sure what my digestion would say to that ;-)

    For storing the apples, my mother has figured out that the best place is the garage, even better then the cellar. Some varieties can be safely kept there until next March. In my appartment, in contrast, these home-grown "organic" apples cannot be kept for longer than say two weeks - to my amazement, apples bought in the supermarket stay in shape for more than a month, which makes me a bit skeptical what kind of fruits those actually are.

    By the way, the variety on the upper two photos is "Kardinal Bea", which is extremely tasty but cannot be stored, and Boskoop on the last one.

    Best, Stefan

  15. Dear all,

    thank you for sharing your love of apples!
    However, this rhyme doesn't quite fit ;-)

    Hab Sonnschein im Herzen,
    Ein Bonbon im Mund,
    Iss viel Schokolade,
    Dann bleibst Du gesund.

    Did I know that before? Sounds good also!

    Best, Stefan

  16. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.- If you can hit him ;-)



  17. Hi Arun,

    I also chop them, sprinkle with salt, black pepper and something that in north India we call "black salt" and they become even more tasty.

    sounds interesting.. I've never heard of such a preparation of apples for a meal, I should give it a try!

    As for keeping apples fresh: cooling in supermarkets is for sure important, also to keep them nicely looking outside. At home, I usually store them just in the kitchen, and then you cannot keep the home-grwons very long.

    That's why I suspect that some of the long-living supermarket varieties are either special breedings optimized for storage life - or maybe treated in some way. For example, if you kill all bacteria and fungi on the apple peel by irradiation, that will probably improve the preservation of the apple.

    Cheers, Stefan

  18. Dear Stefan,

    Don't know where you'll find black salt. This kind of sprinkle goes well with bananas too.

    Googled a bit about apple storage - apparently they put the apples in a carbon dioxide atmosphere, among other things.

  19. Like this:

    "Early settlers attempted to forestall this deterioration by storing their home-grown apples in cool basements or root cellars. This usually worked for a few months before apples became limp and flavorless.

    Scientists have since learned a lot about how to store apples longer and make a better quality fruit available to consumers.

    In the early 1950's, they worked out an effective strategy - called controlled atmosphere (CA) storage - that slows the fruit's natural respiration rate and quality decline. It makes fruit firmer, crisper, and more flavorful.

    In CA storage, apples are kept for a specified time in cold rooms with lower oxygen and sometimes higher carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]) levels than regular cold storage. The apples are then sold or moved into conventional cold warehouses until they are needed at market - sometimes as late as the following summer.

    Apples that don't get the CA treatment must be sold before the end of December."

  20. Apples must be causing global warming. ;-) (esp. if they are using lots of co2 for storage)

  21. Got some really nice apple cider vinegar, and sprinkle it on chopped apples and remember this article while eating them.

  22. :-) I recently thought about this post when I had apples that tasted like bananas. No kidding. Unfortunately, I can't stand bananas.

  23. Strange apples, those! Do you remember the name of the variety?

  24. I think it was just Fuji, or at least they looked very similar. I am very sure I didn't store them with bananas which might have caused that funny taste disorientation (since I never buy bananas). maybe a genetic experiment, the banapple? I would much more like to see a cross-over of mango with apple actually. Mangapple? Appgo? ;-)

  25. "Pink Lady" apples have a hint of mango.


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