Sin, Immortality and Good Teeth: How Apples Still Drive Us  

How many lunch boxes have apples in them, I wonder. Not as squashy as bananas or plums, not as juicy as satsumas or peaches, apples are the perfect travelling fruit. As children we were told that they kept our teeth clean. Even better than that, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Statistically, that claim has been proven to be true. Though nobody is really sure why, as apples are not the most vitamin-enriched fruits when compared to bananas or oranges. Perhaps they have some divine nutrient.

We are all aware of the apple being the fruit that led mankind into sin when Eve offered it to Adam. The Anglo-Saxons and Norse folk believed in a goddess called Idunn who kept some very special apples. They had the power of eternal youth and the gods needed them to keep alive, as the Norse and Anglo-Saxon gods were not immortal as many other gods appear to be. The god of mischief, Loki, had fun with Idunn and the magic apples, according to the Old Norse manuscripts. Idunn is a major feature in my book The Dark Garden.

26 September is the birthday of another special apple person, a man known as Johnny Appleseed. His real name was John Chapman and for forty years he travelled through America planting apple trees and handing out apple tree seeds. More than this, he continued to take care of the saplings as they grew, pruning and caring for them and helping the new settlers to create orchards. Born in 1774, Johnny Appleseed has become an American folk hero.

In a month’s time we will be celebrating harvest by playing ‘duck-apple’ where we will try to catch floating apples with our teeth – more about that in October. The best thing about apples? Apple pie with custard. Mmm…


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