One of the most popular quotations of the 19th Century was "An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Before the 20th century there was no food pyramid or someone to announce the importance of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. People simply recognized the healthy attributes of the apple. Some people were also well aware of the apple's relationship to the history of the world. Author-naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote, "It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man."
In looking at the history of the apple, one must pay tribute to and recognize the role of the inventive horticulturists of the Roman era. Were it not for them, juicy, sweet apples would not be in those brown bag lunches today. There would be no apple pie, no apple cobbler, or apple fritters, apple cider, or even apple butter. Simply expressed, there would be no plump, juicy apples.
The wild apple of ancient Asia, malus pumila var mitris, would never have made it to the modern table in its uncultivated form. The wild trees produced hundreds of tiny fruits that were sour and consisted mostly of numerous, small, dark brown seeds and core, hardly a fruit that anyone would anticipate eating. The wild apple of Europe, the main ancestor of the domestic apple, is classified as malus sylvestris.
Though some historians are in dispute over exactly who first cultivated the wild apple, many believe it was the Romans who discovered they could cultivate these wild apples into fleshy, sweet, and juicy fruits. Some historians report the apple's origins were rooted in Southwestern Asia, just south of the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Others note that apple seeds found in Anatolia were carbon dated 6500 BCE. Archeologists even found a fossilized imprint of an apple seed from the Neolithic period in England.
With the apple's exact origin in question, another dilemma arises. Did Eve really bite into an apple that she plucked off the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden? No specific name is given to the fruit she tasted from that tree, though apples are mentioned later in the Bible. Some historians believe Eve's fruit of temptation might have been a pomegranate or possibly even a quince.