Apples

A cultivated deciduous tree in the rose family, native to Eurasia and having alternate simple leaves and white or pink flowers.

Malus pumila

It should be noted that apples growing on the street are going to be very different from store apples.

As touched upon in both Sue Hubbell’s Shrinking the Cat: Genetic Engineering Before We Knew About Genes as well as Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire. The basic concept is that apples have an uneven number of chromosome pairs, and this makes apple seedlings possess a strange combination of traits not necessarily present in the parent. Planting that Fuji apple seed will not give you a Fuji tree.

But that’s part of the excitement…every tree is a little different. Some trees produce the biggest, juiciest apples you’ve ever seen but with almost no flavor. Some produce small apples that taste like they were bought from a supermarket. And some produce apples that are so sour you spit them out instantly and want to scrape your tongue to get rid of the taste. There’s a good article on local apple varieties in Saveur #123. And for the South in particular, Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr. has published the bible of local apple information, fittingly called Old Southern Apples.

Identification

Apple trees are easily identified by two distinguishing features. The first is that they have characteristic leaves: the face of the leaf almost always upward, and the edges of the leaf also curl upwards, revealing the lighter shade of green on the backside of the leaf.

The second feature is that apple trees are just kind of scraggly. They tend to look like large bushes instead of trees, and they require a lot of pruning. Unpruned trees (as we find 99% of the time) will have a large amount of branches and twigs growing on the inside of the tree. They will also often have many small patches of brown, dead leaves which are easily visible in contrast to the rest of the tree.