The Teacher’s Pet
Back in the 1930s when Bing Crosby crooned, “An apple for the teacher will do the trick, when you don’t know your lesson in arithmetic,” apple-giving was the way to curry favour with Teacher.
The apple’s journey to that privileged spot on the big wooden desk at the front of the class dates back to the frontier days of America. It was common then for teachers to travel to small towns where they’d hold class in one-room schoolhouses, usually packed with children of every age. To show their appreciation, parents would send their kids to school with food for the teacher; and apples, being a common storage crop, were often gifted. In the early 20th century, thanks to Washington apple growers promoting the fruit’s health benefits, the Malus domestica became the uncontested symbol of health and moral virtue. As with many things in life, however, not all apples are created equal.
Apple varieties have come and gone over the decades and there are too many available today to list, but we know our customers’ perennial favourites: Red Delicious (as well as her less seen yet still sought-after sister, Golden Delicious), McIntosh, Fuji, Granny Smith and the widely popular Royal Gala. Like the beloved girl next door, Gala has enjoyed the undisputed reign over the playground for several years now.
Now you know the names, but can you identify them? We have put together a guide to help you out.
Because 25% of their volume consists of air, all apples can float. And researchers in England have concluded that the Gala apple is the best for bobbing come Hallowe’en. Its longer stem, relative lightness and soft flesh make it the easiest apple to grip or bite into. Hey, we just report the facts!
Sorry, McIntosh! It may be widely known that you were discovered in the early 1800s by John McIntosh—an inhabitant of Upper Canada and a Yankee expat—but like Johnny here, perhaps you’re not as Canadian as you think. Apparently, the crabapple is the only apple native to North America. Other varieties were introduced to the continent by European settlers.
Developed in the 1930s by growers in Fujisaki, the Fuji apple continues to be Japan’s bestselling variety. Like many other Japanese exports, it’s giving domestic brands abroad a run for their money.
First grown in Mutsu, Japan, this apple variety (also known as Crispin) is large to begin with. It’s no wonder then that the heaviest apple according to the Guinness Book of World Records is a hybrid of the Mutsu and the Fuji. Grown by Chisato Iwasaki, the Hokuto apple weighed in at 1.849 kg (4 lbs 1 oz).
From the Greek word meaning “food or nectar of the Gods,” one bite of Ambrosia and you’ll understand how it got its name. The apple’s goddess-like shape, pink blush and fragrant scent indeed make this BC export divine.
One reason Little Miss Perfect is so expensive is her royalties. Unlike more common and older varieties, the Honeycrisp has a patent. Developed by the University of Minnesota, Honeycrisp growers have to pay a $1 royalty per yielding tree to the University. Elvis never had it so good.
Fruits are highly prized in Chinese culture and often exchanged as gifts. And since the colour red symbolizes good fortune among the Chinese, it stands to reason that the world’s largest producer of apples prizes the lustrous Red Delicious.
There actually was a Granny Smith! Maria Ann “Granny” Smith discovered this singular variety in her Australian orchard in 1868. The pea-green beauty stood out not only in terms of appearance but also in terms of taste. Sweeter and crisper than expected, Granny racked up strong sales upon her weekly visits to the local market.
Developed in the early 70s by crossing a Golden Delicious with a Lady Williams, it’s believed this apple’s creator, John Cripps, borrowed the name from his favourite novel, The Cruel Sea. The book’s hero enjoys a cocktail called the “Pink Lady,” a drink figuring gin, grenadine and egg whites among its ingredients. No wonder the apple is more popular than the drink!
Or better yet, Northern “S–pie”. Popular among pie makers, this Ontario favourite was actually discovered in upstate New York over 200 years ago. Beyond its yummy use in pies, the Spy can also be served raw, baked, roasted, sautéed or pureed. Talk about the “Spy” that knew too much! (Full disclosure: because we couldn’t get a Spy photo-ready in time for this spread, the Cortland variety is pictured. Although not similar in looks, the two varieties are equally versatile!)