Last Call: Apple pie, or apple lies?

Illustration for article titled Last Call: Apple pie, or apple ilies/i?
Photo: zsv3207 (iStock)
Last CallLast CallLast Call is The Takeout’s online watering hole where you can chat, share recipes, and use the comment section as an open thread. Here’s what we’ve been reading/watching/listening around the office today.

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

lonestarapologist
Lone Star Apologist

One of those great American apple myths is that Johnny Appleseed was planting apples for people to eat and bake pies with - his apples were actually mostly inedible on their own and were meant purely for fermenting into cider. But the story of the guy planting booze trees all over early America isn’t as much fun for kids...