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Neatolicious Fun Facts: Apple

Hello, everybody! After writing about 100 articles for Neatorama in the past couple of years, I can't bear to write another Top 10 article - at least for a while (other Neatorama authors undoubtedly will pick up the slack). So, please let me try something new. In what I hope will be a regular feature, I'm going to take a regular object and try find the neatest nuggets of knowledge about it.

Let's start with the letter A ... say, apple. So without any further ado, here is Neatolicious Fun Facts: Apple.

1. The Wild Ancestor of All Apples: Malus sieversii

Today, there are some 7,500 different cultivars of apples that are derived from a single wild ancestor from Central Asia: Malus sieversii. In fact, that species still grows in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang, China.

Photo: Malus sieversii, as collected by the 1996 Kazakhstan Apple Collection Mission of the USDA Agricultural Research Service

2. Apple: The Forbidden Fruit?

From The Fall of Man by Titian (c. 1570)

In the Bible, God forbids Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When they eat the fruit anyway, Adam and Even are expelled from the Garden of Eden.

But why apple? The Book of Genesis never mentioned the fruit as apple - in fact, early interpretations pointed to fig, grapes, citron (a lemonlike fruit), carob, and pomegranate (the most likely culprit), but never apple.

The bad rap for apple began when Christians translated the Bible into Latin. Malus, the Latin word for bad or evil is very similar to the word for apple (malum). It seems like the assignation of apple as the forbidden fruit was the result of a pun. Source

3. "An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away"

The first version of the proverb is actually from Pembrokeshire, Wales. The first recorded use was in the February 1866 edition of Notes and Queries magazine: "Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread." (Source)

It became popular, however, when fruit specialist J.T. Stinson used it in his speech at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

Apples do have a lot of good nutrients and pythochemicals that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and even tooth decay. But don't eat the seeds; they are mildly poisonous.

4. The Big Apple

Why is New York City called The Big Apple? Parking ticket judge by day and amateur etymologist by night Barry Popik tracked down the first use of the term "The Big Apple" back to the 1920s by journalist John J. Fitz Gerald, a horse racing reporter for the New York Morning Telegraph.

Fitz Gerald overheard stable hands in New Orleans racetrack talk about the "Big Apple" racing circuit, meaning "the big time" where a lot of money could be won (Horses love apples, by the way). He liked the term, and wrote a column called "Around the Big Apple" on February 18, 1924:

The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple. That's New York. (Source)

5. Bobbing for Apples

The game bobbing for apples comes from Celtic festival of Samhain, the precursor of Halloween. As apple is associated with love or fertility, the winner of the game - the person who catch an apple with his or her teeth first - is supposed to be the first to marry. (Photo: calebdzahnd [Flickr])

On February 19, 2008, Ahrita Furman of Brooklyn, New York - who has set 216 official Guinness records - set the world record for bobbing for apples: He bobbed 33 apples in a minute.

Oh, and remember that tradition of throwing rice at weddings? Well, that came from the tradition of throwing apples at newlyweds (yikes!)

6. Record-Breaking Apples

In 2005, Chisato Iwasaki of Hirosaki City, Japan, grew the world's heaviest apple. At 4 lb 1 oz (1.849 kg), it's the size of a small pumpkin!

The world's longest single continuous apple peel was created in 1976 by Kathy Wafler Madison at the tender age of 16. It measured 172 feet, 4 inches long. Kathy grew up to run her own apple tree nursery!

7. Newton's Apple

Legend has it that Isaac Newton was inspired to formulate his theory of universal gravitation when an apple fell on his head. Though that was apocryphal, the part that the physicist was inspired by the apple was actually real. Newton himself wrote that he witnessed the falling apple while staring out the window of his house at Woolsthorpe Manor.

Purported offspring of the Newton’s Apple Tree in Woolsthorpe Manor (Image Source: Mathematical Association of America)

What happened to the apple tree? Various places claim that they have the tree. The King's School in Grantham claims that they bought the tree, uprooted it and transported it to the headmaster's garden. The staff of Woolsthorpe Manor, of course, disagreed: they claim that the tree is still present in their garden. Trinity College in Cambridge claimed that they have a descendant of the original tree growing outside the room Newton lived when he studied there.

Oh, and what kind of apple was it? It's a green cooking apple called the Flower of Kent: a pear-shaped, mealy, and generally of poor quality of an apple by today's standard.

See also: Neatorama's 10 Strange Facts About Newton

8. How Did Apple the Computer Company Get Its Name?

Steve Jobs worked summer jobs at an apple farm and liked the Beatles' record label, Apple. So, when he and Steve Wozniak was trying to figure out a name for their new computer company, they decided that if they couldn't think of a better name, they'd name it Apple. Apparently, they couldn't! (Source)

... and talking about Newton, would you know it that Apple's first logo was of Sir Isaac sitting underneath an apple tree?

See also: Neatorama's Evolution of Tech Logos

Do you know more apple fun facts? Please add them to the comment ... and while you're at it, what should we do for "B"?

I don't know more Apple fun-facts but I do love apples a lot. Would it be ok if I make a post about these fun-facts about apples on my blog.

I'll link back to ur post.
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it's got to be Bananas!!!! check out Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel and you'll know what I mean!
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The Beatles spent a long time in court over the Apple logo- the record company they began was called "Apple Corp." and they believed the technology Apple company infringed upon their corporation rights. Anyways, more here:,2933,97064,00.html
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this is a great article! thanks for the good read.

i'd avoid doing bananas next, as one person suggested, unless you want it to be perceived as a fruit-related feature.

maybe make the next one about a place? boston perhaps?
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"How Did Apple the Computer Company Got Its Name?"
now, i may not be a native speaker, but i'm pretty sure that that's not proper english..
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An addition to the bit about apples being a forbidden fruit:

The Qu'ran suggests that the forbidden fruit might have been a banana. The text refers to the forbidden tree as one whose fruits "grow piled one on top of another, in long extended shade, and whose season is not limited." In other words, a banana plant.

I'm a bit surprised that Mr.Kris didn't pick on it as Mr. Koeppel spends a relatively long time on it in his book "Banana."

I agree, though, bananas would be a fantastic "B." Lots of crazy facts about bananas.
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During some Wiccan ceremonies an apple is cut sagittaly with the upper and lower halves then shown. the seed pattern is one of a five pointed star. Although Wicca is a fairly new religion the custom may have been borrowed from earlier Pagan rituals and could lend some additional reason as to why the Apple is considered to be the forbidden fruit.
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A book that includes a really interesting chapter on apples is "The Botany of Desire," by Michael Pollan. It's well written, and a quick read.

One important fact is that apple seeds do not "spring true". In other words, if you plant a red "Delicious" apple, the resulting tree will almost certainly just bear sour-tasting crap apples. In fact, very few apple trees bear fruit that is sweet and edible. In other words, there is enormous genetic variability in apples.

There are several important consequences of this fact. One is that "Johnny Appleseed" (a real person) who planted apple seeds in the USA in the 1800s was probably NOT aiming to produce sweet fruits. His apple trees were probably meant to produce sour apples that could be fermented into alcoholic cider. No wonder he was so popular!

Another consequence is that, once a good apple tree is found that produces sweet fruits, the only way to get more of those fruits is to take cuttings from it and graft them onto ordinary apple tree root stock. In other words, all apple tree that produce a particular variety of edible apple (eg "Delicious") is a clone of the original.

Nature is an arms race, and insects develop ways of overcoming the natural defenses of plants. Plants, in turn, produce different offspring which may produce new chemical defenses. If all plants are genetic clones (as all commercial apple trees must be), they are not evolving any more, and begin to fall behind in the arms race. That's why HUGE quantities of pesticides are needed to get an apple tree to get past creatures that attack the bark, the blossoms, and the fruit.

When I was a child we had an apple orchard and never sprayed the trees with chemicals. In the spring, all the trees were covered with caterpillars, and in the fall the apples all had worms in them. You just had to cut away the bad bits.

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In Old English Apple (or appel as it was spelt), mean 'fruit'. Later in time the French word fruit became the norm for all fruits, but apple was preserved and used for the most common fruit eaten in Britain. So it's not necessarily an apple that was the forbidden fruit. But then again, the apple has been considered for a long time in Britain as a symbol of fertility.
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I used to work in Silicon Valley and the Apple founders always said that they chose "Apple" so that it would be listed high in alphabetical lists of computer companies (in phone directories, etc.).
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The bit about apple seeds being poisonous brings up an interesting line of factoids. The offending chemical is a sugar+cyanide compound, which is apparently the same as the one found in peach and apricot pits. You would have to eat a huge number of apples to cause any problems.

That's where the factoids get interesting. Snopes ( is a good start for the trail. The cyanide compound is believed by certain people to be an anti-cancer treatment, called Laetrile or Krebiozen (sp?). The way it is supposed to work is that hungry cancer cells have a preference for sugars, and so ingest the laetrile more than regular cells. When they break off the sugar, the cyanide kills them. That's the theory.

But wait!! There's more!! This theory got its start from a very interesting trek into the Himalayas by, intrepid explorer (and TV star) Art Linkletter in (IIRC) 1948. Linkletter and his team went to visit the Hunzas, a very long-lived tribe who live in a high valley (8000 ft/2940m) in the Himalayas. At the time, they were reputed to be the longest-lived people on Earth, with some Hunzas supposed to be alive into their 120's. The Hunza valley was supposed to be the inspiration for the legend of Shangri-La.

The Hunzas at the time, who may have been descended from elements of Hannibal's army, had no road to the outside - only a very dangerous humans-only trail (read the Geography section of Hunza on Wikipedia if you want to be scared), and had no words for heart attack or cancer - these diseases were unknown. Their life was incredibly hard but healthy. However if anyone left they generally died quickly as they had no immunity to many common diseases.

One of their major food sources was apricot seed oil that contained this cyanide compound...

Finally, this valley is now connected to today's news - it was historically one of the routes into the Swat Valley.
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A few corrections and notes:
Linkletter didn't go to Hunza himself - he financed an expedition.

James Hilton wrote "Shangri-La" (pub. 1933) after visiting the Hunza valley.

The compound in the seeds is amygdalin. Laetrile, AKA Krebiozen AKA "Vitamin B-17" is a partially synthetic compound derived from amygdalin. The study of amygdalfor cancer prevention goes back to the 1800's. At present there is no 'accepted' evidence of its efficacy.

There is only anecdotal evidence about the long life spans.
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I vote for BEER as well. And not in the "hey let's all have one and get wasted...WOOO!" sense but the "it predates most civilizations" sense.

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