It’s Thanksgiving time in the U.S., which conjures up romantic colonial imagery of pilgrims enjoying the bounty of a fresh harvest. If you’re like us, fall harvest is a time to enjoy a wide variety of apple products and varieties, but our current apple selection is vastly different than what was available back in the 1600s. Frankly – it stunk back then!
Anyone thinking that there were delectable heritage varieties all over the place in that era is sorely mistaken. As of the first Thanksgiving in 1621, there wasn’t even a single apple orchard planted in the U.S., and worse still, hungry pilgrims only had the unappetizing crab apples that are native to the U.S. available!
A few years later in 1625, the first apple orchard in North America was planted in Boston by a man named William Blaxton, and by the mid-1600s, there were already around 60 varieties growing in American soil. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, even the most famous Americans of the day were getting in on the action, as both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had apple orchards of their own.
At the same time, another recognizable name, Johnny Appleseed (or more accurately, John Chapman – yes, he did exist!) was busy propagating apple nurseries across the country and by the time he passed away in 1845, nurseries were selling over 350 unique varieties.
The love for apples in the U.S. has continued to grow ever since, and apples have been either the 1st or 2nd most consumed fruit in the country for many decades. One of the reasons for this is the endless development of exciting new varieties that are constantly being improved upon and diversified, resulting in better quality apples for consumers and growers alike.
Today, there are around 2,500 apple varieties grown in the U.S. (and 7,500 worldwide!) and plenty more on the way. So the ability to enjoy any of the amazing varieties that we have now, rather than just sour crab apples, is one more thing you can be thankful for this Thanksgiving!