There may be nothing as American as apple pie, but the U.S. hardly has a lock on apples. Scientists point to the mountains of Kazakhstan as the birthplace of the storied fruits, varieties of which have been cultivated in temperate climates the world over for centuries.
(And if you’re interested in the history of apples, why they’re probably not the “forbidden fruit” and the curious way they’re cultivated, we have some fun reading for you at these links. Trust us—apples are fascinating!)
There are thousands of varieties of apples, which may come as a surprise if you’re accustomed to a supermarket selection of Gala, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith. These types, along with about five others, account for almost three-quarters of the apples produced worldwide.
Lucky for apple lovers, lesser-known types of apples, known as heirloom or antique apples, are experiencing a renaissance, at least in the Americas. The local food movement has spurred growers to revisit long-forgotten varieties, many not seen since the 18th and 19th centuries, before large commercial apple farms began to corner the industry. That’s when thousands of types, with charming names like Sheepnose and Pitmaston Pineapple, grew on small farms and orchards across the U.S.
The increasing popularity of hard cider has also given long-forgotten apple varieties a boost. Cider sales still pale in comparison to beer and wine, but they’re marching steadily northward in a trend reminiscent of the growth of the craft beer industry.
Whether you enjoy your apples in solid or liquid form, before you head for your local orchard in search of an Esopus Spitzenburg or a Roxbury Russet, take a look at our gallery of apples, courtesy of our Your Shot community.