Arnold Bernstein – History of Apples

Arnold Bernstein spoke at the Organic Garden Club of Ventura County about the history of apples and growing Apples in Malibu. He has lived there for 50 years and has been growing trees for about 40 years. He has an acre with 400 trees in his orchard, with about 140 types of trees.

Theocritus, the father of botany, wrote how Romans knew the art of grafting and planted apples throughout their empire. During the Bubonic plague in 544, people drank apple cider instead of water. For many years, all waste was thrown into the rivers which made the water undrinkable. Many aqueducts were built to help the water situation. The people discovered that if you crush apples, juice can become cider. Cider was then used to purify the water they were drinking. During the Age of Discovery, ships would sail for more than a day or two without returning to port for supplies, and many sailors died of scurvy. When it was discovered that cider could help with scurvy, apples became an even more important crop.

Protestant Huguenots in France experimented with grafting apple trees and became the most efficient growers in Europe. When they came to America, they brought apples and bees with them. During the westward expansion in America, there was a law that a homesteader had to plant 50 pear or apple trees as a sign of good faith that they planned to stay on the land. Starting in the Ohio Valley, Jonathan Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) got seeds from the local cider mills and grew apple seedlings. He sold them (or gave them away) to the people who were migrating. Apple cider was the most popular drink during the 19th century. During the depression, people switched to eating apples. Although growers started spraying apples with unhealthy chemicals after World War II, Organic Gardening has proven that you can grow apples without chemicals.

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