Our series “Chew on This” serves up the flavorful history of food and how it has shaped the way we cook and eat today.

The apple has staked its rightful claim as America’s favorite fruit. With its iconic slightly heart-like shape, signature stem, and smooth, rosy skin, the apple has earned a place not just in our kitchens but in every aspect of our lives.

According to the U.S. Apple Association, the more than 5,000 apple producers operating in America today grow more than 240 million bushels (approximately 30 billion!) of apples a year, feeding an industry worth more than $15 billion. How ’bout them apples?!

Their variety is astounding

With more than 7,500 different types of apples in existence around the world, and more than 100 types grown in the United States, there’s a perfect apple out there for every set of taste buds. But what we look for in our apples as a nation is changing.

Apple image - Rack with raw rose shaped apple pastry on table

For more than five decades, Red Delicious apples were the most widely grown and consumed apple in the industry. But Reds reign no more.

In late 2018, the Red Delicious officially lost its crown. With Americans seeking greater variety in their apples — sour notes, floral flavors, different textures — the traditional Red Delicious began to slip. In its place rose the glorious Gala, an uber-crisp, creamy yellow apple with a mild sweet flavor and aroma containing hints of vanilla.

Following the Gala and second-place Red Delicious, the Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Fuji fill out America’s top five favorite apple varieties, comprising more than two-thirds of all apples sold in the country annually.

Apples flavor our history

More than any other fruit, apples touch our lives in countless ways — starting as soon as we choke down our first bit of apple-flavored baby food or sip our first taste of apple juice.

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As children, we’re taught to eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away. Or to share the apples from our lunch boxes with our teachers as a symbol of affection and appreciation.

In church, we learn the story of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and forbidden fruit — often symbolized as being an apple you just can’t wait to take a bite of.

In science, we discover the story of a relaxing Sir Isaac Newton observing an apple falling from a tree and coming up with the theory of gravity as a result.

Apple image - overhead view of Freshly baked delicious classic homemade American apple pie on a concrete table with kitchen towel and ingredients, view from above, close-up, macro

In history class, we meet a wandering Johnny Appleseed, who helped spread apple orchards across our land in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

In music, we sit in awe listening to the songs of composer William Tell and his galloping violins and soaring orchestral chords — only to find later on that they were inspired, at least in part, by his own slightly disturbing experience shooting an apple off his own son’s head.

In geography, we learn about New York City, aka “The Big Apple,” a nickname popularized in the 1920s and made to stick in the 1970s following an insanely popular tourist ad campaign.

Those tales and more offer just a bite of the full apple story that soars on even today.

Apples are an intrinsic part of modern pop culture

Even our leisure time is centered around the ever-present apple. Going back to 1904, apples were a central part of that year’s World’s Fair in St. Louis, with the Stark Brothers’ Nurseries and Orchards from Louisiana, Missouri, launching an incredibly ambitious marketing campaign to promote their newly discovered apple — the Red Delicious.

Apple image - Apple phones and computer

Fifty some years later, when it was time for the world’s biggest band to name their record label, what did John, Paul, George, and Ringo pick? The apple, of course. As The Beatles manager explained later on, the lads from Liverpool went with the beloved fruit as a namesake because they wanted a label named after something “fundamental and strong,” like one of the first things children learn when they are growing up.

Fast forward two decades and tech pioneers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak also found inspiration with that most beloved fruit when it came time to name the new computer they’d just built.

“We wanted something fun, spirited, and not intimidating — and something that would get us ahead of Atari in the phone book,” Jobs recalled later on. Apple was born. And it’s since gone on to become one of the biggest and most successful companies of all time. As American as apple pie.

The kitchen is an apple-lover’s dream

Apples are the quintessential and ideal fruit to eat fresh and on the go.

“Apples are a fantastic fruit choice,” says Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, author, and consultant. “They’re portable, convenient, easy for travel, and loaded with nutrition.”

According to Mohr, whole apples — skin included — are “a great source of the shortfall nutrient fiber, offering about four grams per apple. They’re also low in calories, packed with water — which makes them filling if you’re counting calories or trying to lose weight.”

If you’re not eating them fresh, you can prepare them in an almost endless number of ways: piescrispsdumplings, applesauce, apple butter, muffins, cakes, donutscaramel applesbaked applesstuffing, chutneys — the list goes on and on.

Apple image - apple pie with fresh fruits on wooden table

They can also take a leading role in savory dishes, paired with pork, mixed into a ginger or carrot soup, snuck into salads, in a cheesy casserole, or as the secret ingredient in a beef stew.

Apples even have a place in a variety of drinks, from ciders to smoothies to cocktails…even sangria. Apple juice was once even one of the earliest prescribed antidepressants!

And when they’re not the main star in a meal or snack, they make a great supporting role. Harry & David pears, apples, and caramel sauce brings the apple snacking experience to a whole new level. Who knew snacking could be so sweet?

Author

Brian Good is a writer, editor, and project manager with more than 20 years experience in publishing. He's written for some of the country’s biggest magazine brands including Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Shape, Men's Health, Muscle & Fitness, US Weekly, AARP: The Magazine, and websites including Mashed, Health Digest, DiversityInc and others. Good specializes on topics including lifestyle, travel, pop culture, health, food and nutrition, spirits, products, politics, and activism.

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