Whether during our cold wintery days, or our sizzling summery ones, an apple can always hit the spot, wouldn’t you agree? A crunchy apple can freshen you up, and a smooth apple cider can warm your soul; it’s always a good idea to talk about apples!
The apple fruit has been a symbol for eternal youth, fertility, love and temptation in mythology, religion and art. Here is a quote from Plato which illustrates one of its symbols: “I throw the apple at you, and if you are willing to love me, take it and share your girlhood with me; but if your thoughts are what I pray they are not, even then take it, and consider how short-lived is beauty”.
Another saying we all know and repeat is: An apple a day keeps the doctor away! Indeed, a diet rich in apples has been associated with multiple health benefits making the apple a symbol for well-being. One more very interesting and important fact to note is that apples represent diversity. No cultivated fruit has so many VARIATIONS as the apple.
However, when walking into a grocery store, have you ever thought that the selections available are among the 11 varieties that make up over 90% of the apples grown and eaten in the United States? One variety, Red Delicious, comprises almost 60% of the entire American apple crop.
This could not be alarming to you yet, but what if I tell you that there used to be between 15,000 and 16,000 varieties of apples in the North American continent. Only one fifth of those are still accessible. This is a threat to our ecosystem, our health and our history; this is a threat to BIODIVERSITY (stay tuned for an upcoming blog discussing the reasons behind this major decline and the importance of biodiversity).
Therefore you can see why the apple is an endangered food and is of interest to Slow Food. In fact, many varieties are found on the Ark of Taste, an online catalogue gathering threatened and vanishing heritage products. Moreover, Slow Food has released a report in 2010, Noble Fruits—A Guide to Conserving Heirloom Apples that “draws attention to the rapidly declining number of apple varieties—and proposes some solutions along the way”.
When it comes to our region, do you know that Milwaukee has its OWN apple? It actually does! It’s called the Milwaukee Apple. It was developed by George Jeffrey in the 1890’s who found the seedling growing under a Duchess Apple tree. The fruit yielded is yellowish-green with a tart flavor. Learn more about the sensory description of the Milwaukee Apple on the Milwaukee Apple Project page. Local chefs including Greg Leon, Todd Moore and Peter Sandroni have worked with the apple to learn more about its culinary traits.
Slow Food Wise has adopted the Milwaukee Apple tree in 2010 and has since been working with orchardists, chefs and food activists on protecting it. We are striving to bring it and other antique apples back to our tables. One of the aims of SF Wise was to build an orchard, however unfortunately this spring, dozens of recently grafted heirloom apple varieties have been damaged by deer at their urban location. But we haven’t lost hope. The work for saving the Milwaukee Apple tree continues. On July 4th, we celebrated by planting the Milwaukee Apple Tree with the Pewaukee and Oneida variations at La Merenda. Check out the photos of our Patriotic Apple Planting Day Party on our Facebook page. Stay tuned for a VIRTUAL MILWAUKEE ORCHARD MAP to show you where the trees are planted around the area. Also make sure to check the growers and producers of antique apples on the Milwaukee Apple Project page. We are always looking for sites to plant the Milwaukee Apple tree along with other heirlooms trees. If you would like to adopt your own tree, do not hesitate to contact us!
Help us protect Wisconsin’s food culture!