The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be true for a reason: Apples contain lots of vitamins and minerals that help keep the body healthy. Apple trees also beautify landscapes and gardens with beautiful blossoms in the spring and interesting leaf texture the whole summer. With apple trees dating back to 6,500 B.C., there’s plenty of facts and information available to help gardeners make the best choice for their landscape.
A medium-sized apple contains 8 mg of vitamin C and offers a good source of vitamin A and potassium. The fruit also provides soluble fiber known to prevent cholesterol buildup, which reduces the risk of heart disease.
Apple trees produce fruit after growing for about four to five years. Before they get that far, most apple trees need another different type of apple tree to cross-pollinate with or the tree will bear little or no fruit. Apple trees also require a long-enough growing season to allow the fruit to properly mature without the risk of a late frost destroying the blossoms.
Parts of the Apple Tree
Apple trees consist of the scion and the rootstock. The scion is a cultivar that determines the type of apple as well as the fruit habit of the tree. The rootstock determines how early the tree will bear fruit as well as the size of the apples. Rootstock also determines how long the tree is likely to live. When choosing an apple tree for the garden, it’s best to select one that offers desirable features on both parts.
A mature dwarf apple tree produces from 120 to 250 pounds of fruit each season or three to seven bushels (a bushel equals 24 pounds). A semi-dwarf tree produces between 250 to 420 pounds of fruit each year.
More than 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, with all 50 states growing the fruit. Around the world, more than 7,500 varieties of apples exist. Apple varieties range in size from tiny fruits similar in size to cherries to apples the size of softballs.
Apple trees originated near the Caspian and Black seas. Findings at archeological sites suggest that humans have enjoyed apples since at least 6,500 B.C. In the United States, apples were first planted by colonists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. One of the country’s oldest living apple trees was planted in 1647 in a Manhattan orchard. Unfortunately, the tree died after it was struck by a train in 1866.
Disease Resistant Apples
To cut down on pests and disease, a number of organizations including the joint breeding program of Purdue, Rutgers and the University of Illinois have developed some disease resistant apples. Varieties such as Priscilla, Sir Prize, Jonafree, and McShay are examples of the apples created from these programs.