I: Apple

The real motivations and legacy of Johnny Cidermaker.

A ripe apple. Photo by Fumiaki Hayashi / Unsplash
A ripe apple. Photo by Fumiaki Hayashi / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is primidi, the 1st of Brumaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate la pomme, the doctor's bane.

Apples you eat don't grow from apple seeds. Selective breeding doesn't work very well on apples, which essentially reset their genome with each new tree. Instead, to produce the edible varieties you find in stores, you have to shove a branch of the apple you want into the branch of a young tree and tape them together. This process, called grafting, has been practiced since Roman antiquity and is still done by hand today.

The mechanics of westward expansion in the United States are complicated and not very well-known, since we mostly focus on the politics and warfare in history classes. Why in the world was everyone in such a hurry to get away from the big cities and lucrative coastlines of the eastern seaboard? And what does this have to do with apples?