Today, March 11th, is “Johnny Appleseed Day”. It commemorates the death of John Chapman, otherwise known as “Johnny Appleseed”. I remember as a child reading a book about this folk hero, who planted apple trees throughout the Ohio Valley. Wikipedia has an interesting article on him.
That got me to thinking about the saying, “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”. I either heard or read recently somewhere that phrase was coined by apple growers during Prohibition because hard (fermented) apple cider wasn’t on the ban list. I can’t find any substantiation to that claim, especially since it seems to stem from a Welsh proverb first heard in the mid-1800’s, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”
The phrase really ought to be altered to read, “An Apple a Day Helps Keep the Doctor Away”. Apples are very healthy eating. A recent research study found that people who ate an apple 15 minutes before lunch ate almost 190 fewer calories than those that didn’t. Makes sense. The high fiber content in an apple (not to mention the acidic content) would make you feel somewhat full prior to picking up your fork.
But it’s not just that. The pectin encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract and may reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Apples are full of flavonoids, which are antioxidants. These help improve immune system function. One of those flavonoids, quercetin, may kill the herpes virus that causes cold sores.
Green apples help cleanse the liver and gallbladder (again, the acidic content); eating an apple gives your gums a nice massage and helps to clean your teeth at the same time. Be sure to leave the peel on. This helps with the massage and most of the healthful chemical compounds are located just below the peel.
Apple wood is used extensively. I’m sure you’ve heard all the recent hype about “applewood smoked bacon”. It does have a different taste than the usual wood used in smoking meat, which is hickory. It’s a hard wood, used in making mallets and golf clubs. I’m told it also makes excellent wands (as does pear wood, which is a relative). A friend of ours used to own an orchard and I’d take some of the fallen wood for our fireplace – the smell is heavenly.
From a magical perspective, how and why apples and love became associated with each other isn’t terribly clear. Perhaps it’s because in the 7th century BCE, apples were so expensive in Attica, Greece, that bridal couples had to share one on their wedding night. However, it must go further back than that. Apples are a favorite of the goddess Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. I’m pretty sure she was around long before the 7th century!
Whatever, the apple is now used in spells designed to divine love. One that I remember from my youth: as you peel an apple, recite the alphabet. When the peel either breaks or is completely removed, the letter you’re on will be the first letter of the first name of your “true love”. I’m not sure this spell works … My grandmother was a whiz at peeling an apple in one continuous spiral and my grandfather’s name started with a ‘A’. I, on the other hand, after all these years of making pie, still can’t manage more than a turn or two before the peel breaks and my beloved’s name starts with a ‘P’.
Moving to the sticks was an apple education for me. I had formed an attachment to Granny Smith apples because I like my apples tart and those were the only less-sweet ones available at the grocery store. There is an orchard not too far from us and a trip through their store was an eye opener. I couldn’t believe the number of varieties not seen at the chain grocers! My current favorite is “Mutzu”. It’s sort of a cross between a Granny Smith and one of the sweeter varieties such as Rome or Jonathan. Unfortunately, that variety isn’t available year-round so I hurry over in the fall to get enough to make several pies and some applesauce – which don’t last long around here.
So, add that apple to your daily diet. If you live near an orchard, pay them a visit. They have all sorts of interesting apples – and they’re fresher than those you find at the chain stores. If you choose to peel your apple, I hope you have better luck with your love divination!