apple, any tree (and its fruit) of the genus Malus of the family Rosaceae (rose family). Apples were formerly considered species of the pear genus Pyrus, with which they share the characteristic pome fruit. The common apple (M. sylvestris) is the best known and is commercially the most important temperate fruit. Apparently native to the Caucasus Mts. of W Asia, it has been under cultivation since prehistoric times. According to ancient tradition, the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden was the apple (Gen. 3). In religious painting, the apple represents the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as do occasionally the pear and the quince. It was sacred to Aphrodite in classical mythology. The apple is now widely grown in thousands of varieties, e.g., the Golden Delicious, Winesap, Jonathan, and McIntosh. The tree is hardy in cold climates, and the firm fruit is easy to handle and store. Most apples are consumed fresh, but some are canned or used for juice. Apple juice (sweet cider) is partly fermented to produce hard cider and fully fermented to make vinegar. Wastes from fermenting processes are a major source of pectin. Applejack is a liquor made from hard cider. Western Europe, especially France, is the chief apple-producing region; in North America, also with an enormous total output, Washington is the leading apple-growing state, but very many areas grow crops at least for local consumption. The tree is subject to several insect and fungus pests, for which the orchards are sprayed. The hardwood is used for cabinetmaking and fuel. The crab apples are wild North American and Asian species of Malus now cultivated as ornamentals for their fragrant white to deep pink blossoms—e.g., the American sweet, or garland, crab apple (M. coronaria), the prairie crab apple (M. ioensis), and the Siberian crab apple (M. baccata). The small, hard, sour crab-apple fruits are used for preserves, pickles, and jelly; in growth and culture these trees are similar to the common apple. Apples are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Plants