Welcome to our second installment of Fun Fact Friday, where I teach you some useless bit of information that will likely not functionally improve your life in any way. Today we published my oven roasted apple butter recipe, as well as a great list of apple “not-really-a recipe” recipes, so, in keeping with the theme, today I share with you the startling fact that apple pie is, in fact, not “all-American.” In fact, apples aren’t even American at all. They came here from faraway lands to steal pie jobs from other fruits, like pawpaws, chokecherries, and the Florida strangler fig.
Apples, as we know them, came from Central Asia—their common ancestor Malus sieversii still grows wild in the forests of the -stan countries. There were other apple species to be found throughout Europe and the Americas, but none of them tasted quite like the apples that Alexander the Great’s armies encountered when they invaded Persia. So they brought those back to Macedonia, where their popularity took off. The Greeks introduced apples to the Romans; the Romans introduced them to England; and American colonists brought them to the New World.
Early colonists had no luck establishing apple orchards in America, as the native honeybee Apis mellipona wasn’t all that keen on helping them pollinate. A bunch of European honeybees—Apis mellifera— were shipped over in 1622, and soon the orchards were thriving. It all seems like a lot of trouble for a fruit, particularly since the New World had no shortage of delicious ones to keep the colonists happy. What the colonists did have a shortage of, though, was sanitation. Apples could be fermented into safe-to-drink cider, and further fermented into vinegar to preserve foods and disinfect crockery. And, in a fledgling country with no established economy, barrels of cider could be used as a form of currency.
As for apple pie? The English have been making those since the Middle Ages. There’s nothing even the slightest bit American about them. And now you know.