Fruit of several species of apple tree. There are several hundred varieties of cultivated apples, grown all over the world, which may be divided into eating, cooking, and cider apples. All are derived from the wild crab apple. (Genus Malus, family Rosaceae.)
Apple trees grow best in temperate countries with a cool climate and plenty of rain during the winter. The desired variety is grafted onto rootstocks, and the tree must grow for six to eight years before it produces a good crop of fruit. The tree requires a winter period, in which it is dormant, in order to fruit in the spring, but must be protected from frost while the flowers and fruit are young. Pruning is necessary to produce strong branches, and sprays are used to protect the fruit from pests and to influence its development. The apple has been an important food plant in Europe and Asia for thousands of years.
The continents of Europe and North America (both the USA and Canada) are the main sources of supply, but apples are also produced in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some parts of Asia. Modern commercial orchards are limited to few species, with trees of ‘dwarf’ growth (2 m/6 ft high), planted 1 m/3 ft apart, for ease and speed of picking by machine.
In 1989 the US apple industry announced it was discontinuing the use of daminozide, a chemical used to ripen apples and make them crisper. Reports indicated that the chemical caused cancer, and that 15% of all apples grown in the USA contained the chemical.
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