A is For Apple

Fall is for harvest. One of the most popular plants we enjoy in abundance during the fall are apples. Maybe the inspiration for choosing this plant for an indepth look came from seeing so many apples for sale at Costco. Maybe it came from the fact we are constantly snacking on apples and peanut butter in this house. Possibly, the inspiration arose from the fact that it’s fall and I’m ready for some damn wassail! It really doesn’t matter. This is the perfect time to look at some cool traits and history of the simple little apple.

First, a little family history

An apple, a rose, a hawthorn, and a cherry all walk into a bar. . . for a family reunion. All of these plants hail from the Rosaceae, or rose, family. Pears, apricots, plums, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, and almonds are other popular edible members of the rose family . Roses, obviously, are medicinal and ornamental members of this family. Other medicinals and ornamentals include meadowsweets, photinias, firethorns, rowans, and hawthorns. The Rosaceae family is certainly prolific! With over 4,828 known species, it is found on every continent besides Antarctica. Plants in general don’t seem to like Antarctica in general.

Now for a little herbalist aside.

Most medicinal members of the Rosaceae family are known astringents. This is why apple cider vinegar, and raspberry and strawberry leaf teas are all known to be effective toners for your skin.

The small but mighty apple

Apples themselves originated in Central Asia. The first apples were small and very sour. We have bred them and cross bred them for many many centuries to be the fruit we all know and love. Apples have been around a very, very long time. They have significance in cultures around the world. Some cultures see the apple as a symbol of fertility, and love, others equate it with the fall of man. That is quite a range for such a little fruit.  

How did the apple come to be synonymous with evil?

Let’s look at Western Christianity and the beginning in the Garden of Eden. While the kind of fruit that led to the fall of man isn’t specified in the Bible, we all think of the apple when it comes to this story. Why? Well, the Renaissance paintings of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are well known. We’ve all seen them. The naive little Eve has a forbidden fruit in her hand. That fruit is always depicted as an apple. Now, why did they choose the apple? Why is it not a persimmon, or a pear, or some alien fruit we’ve never seen in reality? There are a few possible reasons.


One reason may be due to a simple mistranslation. Ancient Greek had a word, mēlon, that simply meant tree fruit. Latin, however, is a funny language. . dead funny. Haha, get it? Anyhow, Latin took the Greek word melon and turned it into mālum, meaning apple. Coincidentally, the Latin word for evil is mălum. Commonly spelled, without all of the fancy swooshes they are both spelled malum. In Genesis this special tree in the Garden of Eden is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Latin translation of "good and evil" is bonum et malum. Ya know, good and evil or good and apple. . . either way, depends who's reading it. 


Illiteracy in the Renaissance time period is another reason Christianity used the apple as a symbol for sin. Follow me. Artists in the Renaissance used symbols to convey meaning and teach stories through their paintings. They did this because most of the people at that time were illiterate. In the Bible, after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve become aware of their nudity and sexuality. This was forbidden knowledge. Renaissance painters, as well as their audience, were familiar with the Greek myths. The Ancient Greeks used the apple as a symbol of forbidden pleasures, sexual desires, and lust. In Greek mythology the apple is associated with Aphrodite. She did start the Trojan war to get a golden apple after all.


It’s funny how deep the symbolism of apple = evil still resides with us. Take Snow White as an example. She ate a poison apple. Once again, it could have been a grapefruit. Why did it have to be an apple?

Before we leave the Garden of Eden, did you know the term Adam’s Apple comes from the myth that Adam took a bite of forbidden fruit and it got stuck in his throat? Apparently for men, it’s still there.

Let us speak of the Greeks!

As was previously mentioned, the apple was sacred to Aphrodite. Back in the olden Greek days, if someone threw an apple at you that was a declaration of love. On the other end, if you caught that apple it meant you accepted their love. For me, I’m very grateful this tradition was lost to history. First of all, ouch. I don’t think having an apple thrown at me would result in anything but anger. Secondly, I for one am terrible at catching anything and that would get awkward really fast. All jokes aside, please don't throw an apple at anyone. If someone throws one at you press charges. We're not in ancient Greece!

What about Scandinavia? Glad you asked.

In Norse mythology, the goddess Iðunn gave golden apples to the gods to provide them with eternal youthfulness. The Norse also held the apple as a symbol of sex and fertility.

Myth VS. Reality

There is a slight problem with all of this apple symbology. As late as the 17th century the word "apple" was used as a term for fruit in general. All of these “golden apples” were most likely what we know today as oranges. Looks like it’s apples to oranges. . . or I mean oranges to apples.

What is the reality?

So the ancients used the apple as a symbol of sex, love, and fertility. Recent studies have found that apples have the same aphrodisiac components as wine and chocolate. The polyphenols and antioxidants apples contain increase circulation and blood flow. . . everywhere. Funny enough, these antioxidants also have anti-aging properties. Isn’t it strange how the ancients seem to know some things sometimes?


Nutritionally the apple is high in soluble fiber. This helps flush cholesterol through the body, which can lead to lower blood pressure. Those polyphenols and antioxidants mentioned before can also lower the risk of stroke. Apples are also high in fiber and water content, which can help with weight loss. There are also studies that indicate that they can lower the risk of certain cancers. Looks like an apple a day really can keep the doctor away.

I love it when the ancients knew stuff!

As you can see, the apple has quite the history, lore, and benefits. It is such a cool plant. Isn't it funny how modern science has validated early beliefs? Turns out the apple can have anti-aging properties as well as make you a little randy! There are over 800 varieties of apples. This article lumped them all together! Can you imagine what a long read this would be if we explored each one? Currently there are no apple related ingredients in V is For Voodoo body products. Maybe that will change soon. What are your favorite varieties? Anyone have a good recipe for mulled cider? Did you know the apple was a symbol of love? Please let me know!