It’s back to school time, which means school supplies, carpools, and apples for the teacher. But why apples? The tradition might be as American as apple pie, but where did it start? Not in America but in 1700s Denmark and Sweden. Back then education wasn’t government funded so families who couldn’t afford paying for school would give their children’s’ teachers baskets of apples and potatoes as payment. Not sure why potatoes didn’t stick with school and teachers, but that would be a bit like comparing apples and oranges.
The education-themed red fruit also has several biblical ties. We all know about Adam and Eve and their eating of the forbidden fruit and how one bad apple can indeed spoil the whole bunch of humanity, but did you know the common saying “the apple of his eye” comes from the bible? The phrase appears in four books of The Old Testament: Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, and Lamentations, with my favorites being “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,” from the Psalms and “Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye” from Proverbs.
But, what does this really mean?
Biblical scholars say what we utter as “apple” in these scriptures translates literally to “pupil.” In other words, see God and stay focused on His commandments. In ancient times, the pupil was believed to be a round, solid object comparable to an apple. Since it is essential to vision, a pupil was considered very precious so when you called someone “the apple of your eye” you were letting them know they were treasured and special. This could have probably also developed from the Anglo-Saxon word “arppel,” which means both “apple and “pupil.”
One of my favorite blogs, “Our Daily Bread,” takes it even a bit interestingly further by saying God is like an eyelid in that He encircles and guards the pupil and the eye as a whole. The eyelid protects the eye from danger, keeps it healthy, and allows it to rest. All of this God does for us if we let Him. In some ways, every time we blink or go to sleep we can think of God and thank Him for guiding us and protecting us. Eye love it!
Yet another bible-apple tie-in is none other than the Adam’s apple. That “bump” on a man’s neck is the result of puberty and changes in growth, particularly the larynx, also called the voice box. In males, the front of the thyroid cartilage that surrounds the larynx tends to protrude outward. Its name came about from an old wives’ tale that after Adam ate a piece of the forbidden fruit in The Garden of Eden, a piece got stuck in his throat and caused a bump. In reality, an Adam’s apple has nothing to do with the food one eats and doesn’t serve any medical function. The larynx however, does in that it protects your vocal chords.
Coincidentally, an apple is also one of the healthiest things you can eat. They are loaded with fiber and are known to fight Alzheimer’s, prevent colon cancer, stabilize blood sugar, prevent high blood pressure, reduce appetite, fend off heart disease, and fight high cholesterol. Eaten whole, they can also alleviate constipation and in applesauce form, are part of the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) Diet used by moms everywhere to alleviate diarrhea.
When choosing apples, opt for smaller ones as large apples ripen faster and may not be the freshest ones in the produce section. What you’re making with or doing with an apple will also determine which one you choose. Most experts recommend buying organic apples as they are often high in pesticides, but whatever kind you buy, always wash an apple before eating one. And, if you’re looking to slice them and put them in your kids’ lunches, store them in the fridge in cold water and add a little bit of salt to keep them fresh and keep them from yellowing and getting rotten to the core.
Flavor-wise, most people have their favorites. I prefer a sweet apple so I generally look for Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, or Jonagold. If tart is more your style, Granny Smiths rank highest, followed by Macintosh, Rome, and Empire. Smack dab in the middle are Cameo, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Braeburn, and Pink Lady. Here’s a snapshot of all things apple:
- Braeburn: Firm, tangy, juicy, and crisp. Great for baking, eating, and making sauces.
- Cameo: Sweet and a bit spicy. Great in pies and all-purpose cooking.
- Fuji: Crisp, juicy, and very sweet. Great for baking and in salads.
- Gala: Sweet, juicy, and crisp. Not a good choice for baking but great for making cider.
- Golden Delicious: Sweet, mellow, and semi-firm. Good for all-purpose cooking and eating.
- Granny Smith: Tart, juicy, and very crunchy. Best for pies and baking.
- Honeycrisp: Tart with a slight sweetness and crisp. Best for salads.
- Jonagold: Slighty sweet and a little tart. Not a good choice for baking.
- McIntosh: Tart, crisp, and tangy. Best in pies, salads, applesauce, and fresh eating.
- Red Delicious: Sweet, tender, and juicy. Best in salads and fresh eating.
- Rome: Firm and mildly tart. Best for baking whole and for cider.
The best season to buy apples is when school starts: in the fall. Of course it is, right? Apples are considered “winter fruits” and it’s those fruits that also have only moderate amounts of sugar. They are rich in fiber and are one of the lowest-glycemic fruits you can choose, charting much better than bananas and grapes. Granny Smiths have the lowest amount of sugar, which explains their tartier taste.
All apples…red, yellow, green, sweet, or tart…all have something in common though: a star. Yep, if cut apple in half across its “equator,” you will see a star in the middle of each half. Kids love this!
I’ll leave you, my little apples of my blogging eye, with one more apple tidbit. We’ve all heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but where did it originate and is it true?
The common proverb is of Welsh origin and was first recorded in the 1860s. The original wording was “Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread” and today’s wording originated at the end of the 19th century. But, is it accurate?
As we learned above, apples are indeed healthy, but a 2015 study looked at the relationship between eating apples and doctor visits and found no evidence that apples do indeed keep the doctor away. Still, they just might keep many an illness away and will probably make a teacher happy and grateful. You might even get an A for apple for doing so.