THE FRUIT THAT MAKES HISTORY

Apple

If you were asked to think of a fruit, which is the first one that comes to your mind? Most likely the apple. Mankind’s fascination with apples is itself fascinating. From naming companies to writing phrases, it is indeed the ‘apple of our eyes’. Not for nothing did Henry David Thoreau say, “It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.”

A Costly Apple

Three apples changed the history of the earth- Adam’s apple, Newton’s apple and Steve Jobs’ apple. There are many who wish it was a pumpkin that fell on Newton instead. And what made Steve Jobs name his company after the fruit, only he knows. As for Adam, Chuck Palahniuk has the answer, or rather the question. “Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?” Many other apples too have had their share of history and myth. In Norse mythology for instance, the goddess Iðunn, in the Prose Edda (written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson), provides apples to the gods that give them eternal youthfulness. A historical fruit, if ever there was one.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a typical apple serving weighs 242 grams and contains 126 calories with significant dietary fiber and vitamin C content. Research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. So an apple a day might keep the doctor away. But apples can cause trouble. Atalanta, of Greek mythology, raced all her suitors in an attempt to avoid marriage. She outran all but Hippomenes (also known as Melanion, a name possibly derived from melon the Greek word for both “apple” and fruit in general). Hippomenes knew that he could not win in a fair race, so he used three golden apples (gifts of Aphrodite, the goddess of love) to distract Atalanta. It took all three apples and all of his speed, but Hippomenes was finally successful, winning the race and Atalanta’s hand.

Forbidden Fruit

Did you also know that apples had a hand in the war of Troy? The Greek goddess of discord, Eris, became disgruntled after she was excluded from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In retaliation, she tossed a golden apple inscribed Kalliste- ‘For the most beautiful one’), into the wedding party. Three goddesses claimed the apple: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris of Troy was appointed to select the recipient. After being bribed by both Hera and Athena, Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, thus indirectly causing the Trojan War. And who can forget the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden? Though the Book of Genesis does not specifically name the fruit, popular Christian tradition has held that it was an apple that Eve coaxed Adam to share with her. A ‘bad apple’ indeed! On a less mythical note, the seeds of apples contain small amounts of amygdalin, a sugar and cyanide compound known as a cyanogenic glycoside. Ingesting small amounts of apple seeds will cause no ill effects, but in extremely large doses can cause adverse reactions. Nature’s own cyanide poison?

Fruit for Thought

The apple seems to be the favourite of both nature and humans. But there are indeed some individuals who prefer other fruits. Like Demetri Martin who says- “My favorite fruit is grapes. Because with grapes, you always get another chance. ‘Cause, you know, if you have a crappy apple or a peach, you’re stuck with that crappy piece of fruit. But if you have a crappy grape, no problem - just move on to the next. ‘Grapes: The Fruit of Hope.’” He may have a point there. And yet, it is always ‘A for Apple’- never ant, antelope or aeroplane. Nothing takes the apple’s place! Perhaps it is, as author Dan Brown says in his book the Da Vinci Code, the ‘sacred orb from heaven’.

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