Apples have always been part of my life. Some of my earliest memories as a child involve Mother pouring me a glass of apple “juice” from a giant HiC™ can. There was also plenty of apple pie, apple sauce, apple dumplings, and apple fritters in my diet back then. Apples were significant.
A lot of people, some of whom have opinions worth trusting, tell us that apples today are not as nutritious as they were when I was a child. Others warn against shipping apples into the United States from countries whose health standards may not be as high as ours. I’m waiting for someone to warn that apples are not good for us at all. Yet, apples are still the second most popular fruit in the US, right behind bananas (according to the USDA). Nothing is considered more American (though the fruit did not originate here) and nothing is more iconic, even in the world of technology, as an apple.
Today is Johnny Appleseed day. I remember my father telling the story when I was maybe six or seven years old, how he traveled the country teaching horticulture, reading stories, and preaching. Of course, there’s much about John Chapman’s life that is as much fiction as not, and almost none of it can be verified without question. There are even debates as to exactly when he died (March 11, 1845 is considered the “official” date) and where in the vicinity of Fort Wayne, Indiana he is buried.
What’s not in question, though, is the impact he had on the Ohio Valley. To this day, there are still numerous apple orchards dotting the landscape across Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. There are even some who claim a connection to Chapman, though once again, those claims are difficult to substantiate. One has to question whether America’s fascination with this incredible fruit would be as strong as it is without the influence of one man who took the planting of apple trees seriously and took the time to make relationships along the way.
The picture above was taken a couple of years ago at what is considered an organic apple orchard in Indiana. The little guy had already heard about Johnny Appleseed in his preschool class and talked about him and planting apple trees the entire trip. He then saved the seeds from his apple so he could plant more apple trees in our yard. He couldn’t have been more excited. Apples do more than provide nutrition, they influence lives.
Finding positive stories about people in history is increasingly difficult. As we re-evaluate actions and statements of 200 years ago in light of contemporary society, people we once considered honorable don’t always fare well. Maybe there are negative stories out there about Johnny Appleseed, but I don’t care to hear them. I like the concept that one person made a positive difference in both the agricultural practices and nutritional attitudes of the whole country simply by planting trees and telling stories.
Now, who’s down for a warm mug of apple cider?