Apple trees form the basis of many legends and stories, including the Bible's Garden of Eden. In Greek mythology, Mother Earth presented a tree with golden apples to Zeus and his bride, and things were never the same. In the modern world, apple trees produce nutritious, tasty and easily accessible fruit, making the trees a great choice for the garden.
When groups of hunters and gatherers started settling down in 8000 B.C., dessert apples first appeared from the forests of Kazakhstan, according to the Midwest Apple Improvement Association. One of the first people to start grafting apples includes Feng Li, a Chinese diplomat who experimented with growing apple trees and other fruits in 5000 B.C. Royalty partook in apples, as evidenced by the dried slices found in the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi near Basara, Iran, dating to 2500 B.C. By 50 B.C., Cicero, an author and statesman from Rome, started encouraging his countrymen to save apple seeds to help develop new cultivars. Even as early as 1100 A.D., the Medical School of Salerno taught its students the importance of the fruit from the apple tree.
The first book in the English language on apple growing, A New Orchard and Garden, by William Lawson of Yorkshire, appeared in 1618. The first controlled apple hybridization program to improve apples started in 1790 by Thomas Andrew Knight of England, according to the Midwest Apple Improvement Association. During the late 1980s, fears about pesticides lingering on apples caused the apple market to dramatically drop, resulting in huge losses for apple growers that year. By 2000, researchers at the University of California found that apples contain powerful antioxidants.
Apple trees provide more than just the branches that apples hang from. It takes energy from 50 leaves to produce one apple, according to North Carolina State University's website. Careful science behind apple growing means all apple trees sold commercially consist of two parts, including the scion and the root stock. The top portion of the tree that branches and bears fruit is the scion. The root stock is what the scion gets grafted to. The root stock determines the size of the tree while the scion determines the variety.
According to the U.S. Apple Association, more than 7,500 varieties of apples grow around the world. More than 2,500 varieties grow in the United States alone. About 1,200 varieties grow commercially in the United States, but 15 popular apple varieties make up 90 percent of the production. These apples include red delicious, gala, golden delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and McIntosh.
Many gardeners plant and grow apple trees to enjoy the fresh ripe fruit in the fall. Fruit from the tree works in a variety of recipes as well as apple juice, cider and dried fruit. But apple trees also help attract wildlife since deer, squirrels, birds and other creatures find the tasty treats a very beneficial food source. The trees provide nesting for birds, and temporary shelter, too.