Malus domestica, apple (also known as orchard apple and table apple) is a small deciduous tree in the Rosaceae (rose family) that originated in western Asia and is now one of the most widely cultivated fruit trees. Apple trees, which blossom in the spring and produce fruit in the fall, originated and were domesticated in western Asia, where the wild ancestor, M. sieversii still grows today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, dating at least to the Phoenicians. Apples were brought to North America by European colonists, and according to the well-known story, spread throughout the Midwestern states by Johnny Appleseed in the 1800s, described in this Wikipedia article, in this YouTube clip from the 1948 animated Walt Disney movie, and in a video based on Michael Pollan’s popular book, Botany of Desire. Apples have been present in the mythology and religions of many cultures, including Norse, Greek and Christian traditions. In 2010, the fruit's genome was decoded, leading to new understandings of disease control and selective breeding in apple production.
Apple trees are typically 4–12 m tall at maturity, with a dense, twiggy crown. The leaves are 3–10 cm long, alternate, simple, with a serrated margin. The flowers are borne in corymbs, and have five petals, which may be white, pink or red, and are perfect, with usually red stamens that produce copious pollen, and a half-inferior ovary; flowering occurs in the spring after 50–80 growing degree days (varying greatly according to subspecies and cultivar).
There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Different cultivars are bred for various tastes and uses, including in cooking, fresh eating and cider production. Domestic apples are generally propagated by grafting, although wild apples grow readily from seed. Trees are prone to a number of fungal, bacterial and pest problems, which can be controlled by a number of organic and non-organic means.
At least 69.6 million metric tons of apples were commercially harvested worldwide in 2010 from 4.7 million hectares of orchards, with a value of over $14.4 billion. China produced about 45% of this total. The United States is the second-leading producer, with more than 7.5% of world production. Turkey is third, followed by Poland, Iran, Italy, and France.
Apples are often eaten raw, but are often processed into juice or applesauce, and can also be found in many foods (especially desserts). Many beneficial health effects have been found from eating apples; however, the seeds are slightly poisonous and two forms of allergies are seen to various proteins found in the fruit (see details in Wikipedia article, below).
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