Thinking About Apples

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Mar 26, 2016

“Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”
Robert H. Schuller

For nearly two decades Evie and I have lived in the old farmhouse here on the campus of the University of Valley Forge. We have planted many flowers and bushes and vines, and each year we love to see how they keep growing and growing. 

We have also planted numerous trees. Because many exciting campus improvements took place in 2000, we planted a weeping cherry tree which we call our “Celebration 2000” tree to commemorate 27 old buildings coming down, the remodeling and expansion of our Dining Commons and our Chapel, and the opening of our first new building, the Storms Research Center.

I will never forget planting the sugar maple tree which has spectacular red leaves in the fall. We picked out just the right place and when we planted it, I asked the person helping me how tall it would get and he replied, “About 60 feet, but you’ll never see it.” I am still thinking about his direct reference to the tree and the subtle reference to my age. 

But our favorite tree is the yellow delicious apple tree that we planted in honor of our grandson Noah. And each year when he comes, we take his picture by “his” tree. Both he and the tree have changed significantly over the years.

Here is some information about apple trees that might interest you. Some people think it was an apple that Eve gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. The biblical text actually refers to “the tree that is in the midst of the garden.” I still like the quip, however, that the problem in the Garden of Eden was not “the apple on the tree but the pair (pear) on the ground.” 

Apples are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible but you can also find them referenced in ancient Egyptian, Indian, Chinese and Babylonian documents. Horace, the poet, mentions them as well as the Roman writer, Cato, who mentions three apple varieties. Apples were introduced into Britain during the Roman occupation with the earliest written record of the fruit dating back to 885 A.D.

Then there is the legend of William Tell. Tell was forced by the tyrannical Austrian Viceroy, Gessler, to shoot an apple in half as it balanced on his son’s head. William Tell was a famous marksman and he accomplished the task and later killed the evil Gessler, thus starting the 14th century Swiss War of Independence.
Today there are over 2,000 varieties of apples in the world. They are divided into three main classes: dessert, cookers and cider apples. Some familiar American apples are the Winesap, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Newton. Some of the popular Australia, apples are the green Granny Smith (named after Maria Ann "Granny" Smith, who grew the first of its kind in 1868), the Jonathan and the McIntosh.

We often use the apple in our conversations. We speak of the damage to a bushel of apples by one “rotten apple.” We like to compare the difference between “apples and oranges.” And we have all heard the expression that something is as American as “Mom, baseball and apple pie.” I am not trying to “upset the apple cart” but I do know that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” 

Even the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is now known to be more than the superstition of an old wives’ tale. The health benefits from eating “an apple a day” are now well documented. 

William Hazlitt said, “I’m not smart, but I like to observe. Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.” 

Perhaps we should all step into the world of apples more often and take at least one bite. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of  
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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