Washington State Apples
Heart of Washington
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How Apples Are Grown
Commercial apple trees are not grown from seed because apple seeds do not produce "true to variety." Instead, apple growers use grafting or budding to produce trees that will bear fruit of the same apple variety.
Apple trees reproduce from seed much like human families reproduce even though you and your siblings may have the same parents, you all look at least a little different. In the same manner that apple trees grown from seeds may have the same "parents", the seedling siblings would all be a little different. So, every apple seed can potentially produce a new variety. This is in part why more than 7,500 apple varieties have been identified worldwide!
To create an apple tree of a particular variety, orchardists graft a twig, called a scion, from the "parent" tree onto a small, young tree called rootstock really nothing more than a slender whip with roots. The scion contains buds from which twigs and leaves will eventually grow. The trees are protected in nurseries for 1-2 years after they are grafted before being replanted by the grower in an orchard.
Budwood of different trees can even be grafted onto the same rootstock, creating a tree that will bear multiple varieties of apples.
SOURCE: usapple.org, July 2007.
The Legend of Johnny Appleseed
Yes, Johnny Appleseed was a real person. His name was John Chapman. He was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, September 26, 1774. His father was a Minuteman at Concord, and later served as a captain during the Revolutionary War.
Records of his boyhood are scanty at best. His mother died while his father was in service. His father married again after the war, and the family moved to East Longmeadow, where he spent his boyhood years.
In his early twenties, John Chapman migrated to western Pennsylvania, and first settled in the frontier village of Warren, near Pittsburgh. From there he traveled west into the Ohio Valley, and in the nearly 50 years that followed he lived the life that many folks to this day relate more to legend than history.
Chapman never married. For lack of a more appropriate description of his work, he was an itinerate missionary and preacher of the Swedenborgian Christian faith, and an apple tree nurseryman. He traversed the forests and prairies of what is now Ohio and Indiana and fringes of other states, planting and caring for his apple trees, teaching farmers apple culture and assisting them in planting and care for orchards, and preaching "good news right fresh from Heaven." He became known for his courage and dedication to his fellow man, as well as for the thousands of apple trees he planted.
Chapman died in March 1845, from pneumonia. He is buried near Fort Wayne, Indiana.
SOURCE: usapple.org, July 2007.
Apples From Tree to Table
Apples are an ancient fruit, and have been grown by man for thousands of years. The basics of apple growing haven't changed much over the centuries, although in this century science and technology have become very important tools. Here's a summary of an apple's trip from the tree to your table:
Apples are grown on farms called orchards. Apple growers watch over their apple trees all year, pruning them during the winter, thinning blossoms during the spring to increase remaining fruits' size and color, mowing the grass and continuing to fight pests during the summer, and harvesting during the fall. By fall, the tree is so heavy with fruit that its branches can bend to the ground.
Apples bruise easily, so they must be picked from the tree by hand rather than by machine. Apple pickers use ladders to reach the fruit at the top of the tree, and place the picked fruit in cloth buckets worn over their shoulders. When full, these buckets are emptied into a big field bin these are 4'x4' boxes, big enough to be used as a clubhouse by some children!
When the field bin is full, it is loaded on a truck with other bins full of apples and taken to a packing house. At the packing house, the fruit is stored in giant refrigerated warehouse rooms until the apples are sold. We use special kinds of warehouse rooms, called controlled atmosphere rooms, that allow us to store apples for up to a year after harvest. This storage technology ensures that you can have crispy, crunchy apples not just in the fall when they're picked, but all year long, too.
Once the apples are sold, they are the apples are washed and brushed to remove leaves and dust, and dried. The apples are then sorted into bags or boxes with other apples that are the same variety, size and color, and packed into cardboard cartons. The cartons are transported from the warehouse inside a refrigerated truck to your grocery store, your school cafeteria or your local restaurant. Some growers sell their apples themselves, at small stores on the orchard or at roadside stands, or at your community's farmer's market. You can also go to some orchards to pick and buy your own apples - that is a lot of fun!
Some of our apples go from the orchard to food processing plants to be made into apple auce, apple juice, apple slices for pies, apple chips, and other apple foods. About four of every 10 apples we grow are made into processed apple foods.
So, U.S. apples can arrive at your table in a number of ways whether bought at a grocery store, farmstand or already prepared at a restaurant and in a number of forms perhaps simply sliced, or cooked into a delicious recipe, or processed into one of many processed apple foods. No matter how you eat your apples, now you can appreciate how they got from the tree to your table.
SOURCE: usapple.org, July 2007.
All About Apple Seeds
For something that's so tiny, we sure do get a lot of questions about apple seeds! So here are the topline facts about the little sprouts:
While commercial apple trees aren't grown from seeds, they do play a critical role in fruit growth.
An apple is formed when an apple blossom is pollinated by traveling honeybees. If a particular apple blossom is well pollinated, the resulting piece of fruit will contain an average of 5-12 seeds regardless of the variety, and the piece of fruit can attain maximum size other conditions including weather permitting.
The seeds are distributed among an apple's five seed chambers, called carpels, found near the core. Apples can't self-pollinate, so they must receive pollen from another variety of apple tree, transferred by bees. Pollen sticks to the bees' hairy legs when they land on one apple blossom to collect its nectar; when the bee moves to another flower, it deposits some of that pollen on the flower. A single bee can carry 100,000 pollen grains from flower to flower, cross-pollinizing as it moves from tree to tree.
Seed development in turn stimulates apple apple's tissue development, and specifically the tissue near the seed. If a blossom is poorly pollinated for example, due to too-cool weather or too much rain, both of which can keep pollen-carrying honey bees away fewer seeds will form, and the resulting fruit will be small in size. An apple with few seeds will likely "drop" (fall to the ground) before maturing. An apple that develops with more seeds on one side than the other will grow lopsided.
Related activities you can do at home or in school:
- Find the carpels: Cut an apple open horizontally. Do you see the chambers?
- Look for a lopsided apple: Cut it open -- you should find that the fuller side has more seeds in its carpels than the smaller side.
SOURCE: usapples.org, July 2007.