Apple trees (Malus domestica) are fruit trees introduced by the Romans in Europe that are characteristic of cold climates but also do well in hot climates. They are very resistant trees that withstand adverse climatic characteristics or soils with high salinity.
They are usually irrigated with plenty of water until the moment they take root. From here on, the apple tree is a tree that does not need abundant water and rainwater is enough for it. In addition, it withstands periods of drought very well.
In 2005, at least 55 million tons were produced worldwide with a value of 10,000 million dollars. China was the main producer followed by the United States , Iran, and Turkey, Russia, Italy and India.
In Spain, the apple tree ranks second in fruit production, after the peach tree , with an area of 52,000 hectares.
It is a deciduous tree of the Rosaceae family that can reach 12 meters in height but in cultivation it is much lower, often less than two meters to facilitate its cultivation and especially the harvesting of the fruit.
In its natural state (without pruning) it presents a rounded or open crown with numerous almost horizontal branches. The leaves are ovate in shape, toothed at the edges and glaucous in color with the back of the leaf pubescent.
As we have already said in the introduction, the apple tree is a neutral fruit tree in the face of soil conditions that can develop in different conditions of acidity and fertility . Of course, in any of the cases it must be a well-drained land.
It is advisable to protect the apple tree from the wind and they are not great friends of late spring frosts, as is the case with most fruit trees.
flowers and fruit
The apple tree is a deciduous tree full of abundant branches that form a rounded crown. The calyx has five sepals and numerous stamens. The flowers form clusters in corymbs. It blooms in early spring and the fruits, apples, ripen in early fall (there are varieties that ripen in summer).
As for the flowers of the apple tree, they appear during the spring and are hermaphroditic flowers formed by 5 rounded white petals.
The fruit of the apple tree is well known to all, since it is one of the most consumed fruits in Spain : the apple . This fruit has many varieties and we find it in different colors; red, green, yellow…all of them are harvested during the fall.
Apples are used for different consumption : as a natural fruit, as a fruit used in confectionery or cooked in other foods, and it is also used to make the famous Asturian cider, a typical Spanish refreshing drink. Depending on the variety of apple that we have, we can use it for one or another consumption.
As you will see, the apple tree is a very resistant fruit tree and its fruit is used for many different foods.
apple tree cultivation
The apple tree can be grown in temperate climates since it is one of the fruit trees adapted to relatively cold areas with little summer heat, but apples with a thicker caliber are obtained in warm summer areas and under irrigation.
They are planted during the period of sap rest. They are generally multiplied by grafting or cutting as most varieties are self-incompatible. The seeds hardly reproduce the characteristics of the apple tree from which they come.
The apple tree requires a thinning of the fruits when they are the size of a hazelnut, leaving the one in the central part of the corymb. They present the phenomenon of the contrariada or alternation of production, if one year the fruits are not clarified, the following year the production will be very low.
Pollination is by insects (anemophilous), so if there is a continuous rainy period during flowering, apple production can drop a lot.
Apple orchards are generally formed with plants acquired in a nursery grafted in the appropriate rootstocks, many of which form plants that are not very vigorous, very small in size and quickly enter production.
The forms with which apple trees are cultivated are the so-called obligatory ones (palmeta, flag, spindle, etc.) that allow a high density of plants per hectare and have many advantages for cultivation (especially facilitated by phytoparasitic treatment and collection of the fruit).
These grafted plants are very short-lived (about 20 years) in contrast to seed-grown apple trees that can live for around a hundred years but can take more than 10 years to come into production.
Plagues and diseases
Common apple trees are susceptible to attack by numerous types of fungi and bacteria as well as insect pests.
- Mildew, fungus characterized by gray powdery spots on leaves, shoots and flowers.
- Aphids, commonly called aphids . Several species attack apple trees, are vectors of other diseases and reduce the vigor of the trees.
- Evil of fire blight .
- Pseudococcus viburnum
- Edwardsiana Crataegus
- Cydia pomonella
- apple flower weevil
- Elms are beautiful
- Eriosoma woolly
varieties of apples
There are more than 7,500 common apple crops. In the apple tree there is a constant creation of new varieties, some are no longer used and new ones are adopted. Varieties can be grouped by the color of the fruit skin in red (for example Starking) and yellow (from the numerous Golden group)
In the many varieties of common apple trees, some major groups are distinguished:
- Golden Group – Yellow-skinned, includes varieties such as Golden Delicious, Golden Supreme, Golden Reinders, Smoothee, and others.
- American Red Group : includes varieties with more or less intensely pigmented red skin. The best known has been the Starking Delicious, but now it has practically disappeared. Other varieties (much more cultivated and often also -erroneously- called Starking) are Red chief, Early red one, Oregon, etc.
- Galas Group : they are bicolor varieties, which combine yellow and red. Currently, those with a redder color replace the others, although the color of the skin has no relation to the organoleptic quality. In this group it is worth mentioning Royal Gala, Mondial Gala, Galaxia, and other newer ones such as Brookfield or Buckeye.
- Fuji Group : very late varieties, which have a fruit with a dull red color bordering on brown, but which have a good flavor, hardness and good conservation. Most varieties are called Fuji, followed by a number that distinguishes it from the others.
- Granny Group : varieties with green skin and a very acid taste. The best known here is Granny Smith, but the Concorde also stands out for its quality.
Culture is subject to fashion movements and also to the demands of commerce, which, due to ease, seek varieties that are well preserved and do not always seek organoleptic quality. However, there is a movement to conserve “old varieties”, out of fashion, such as the Red Apple from Beneixama and many others.
The Guinness Book of World Records reports that the heaviest known apple was one that weighed 1,849 kg and was grown in Hirosaki, Japan in 2005.
Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.