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Apple harvest season is at its peak, from Washington state to New York and across New England, where orchards are producing bushels and bushels of Honey Crisps, McIntosh, Cortland and oh so many (too many!) Red Delicious. Most are still picked the old fashioned way — by hand.

There are few greater joys of fall than to go apple picking — wandering through the lanes of trees and taking bites as you go. This writer’s favorite spot is Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont; the Darrow family has been running the farm since 1914. It’s as bucolic as an apple orchard can be, worth visiting for the picking alone, but with the fall colors and apple cider donuts, it’s a must.

Even if you can’t pick them yourself, now is the time to eat apples — they’re never as crisp, tart, sweet and delicious. Speaking of delicious, yes, some may enjoy Red Delicious, but up to now, not me. I like my apples crisp and tart. I’m a Macoun and McIntosh man. But here’s a hot tip: Empire apples, a combination of Macoun and Red Delicious, are my pick of this year’s harvest. They are a little less sweet than most Macoun, which makes them just perfect in my book.

But there are as many varieties as ways to slice an apple, so go pick your own. To help get you psyched, here are some facts and figures involving apples:

  • Earliest evidence of humans eating apples: 6500 BC.
  • Where the first apples were grown: in Central Asia (in the mountainous region between Kazakhstan and western China)
  • When the ancestors of the apples we eat today were brought to North America: colonists brought them in the 17th Century to the Massachusetts Bay Colony
  • The only apples native to North America: crab apples
  • Number of varieties of apples commercially grown in the United States: about 100
  • Number of varieties of apples grown around the world: 7,500 
  • Largest producer of apples: China
  • Percentage of world’s apples produced in China: almost 50%
  • Second largest producer of apples in the world: The United States
  • Percentage of world’s apples produced in USA:  6%
  • Put-down used by Matt Damon’s character in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting: “How do you like them apples?”
  • Boast used by Walter Brennan after tossing a grenade in the 1959 John Wayne movie Rio Bravo: “Hey, Dude! How do ya like them apples?”
  • Supposed source of that expression: the nickname given to small, early 20th century bombs that were shaped like apples; soldiers would use the expressions when the bombs hit their targets
  • The decade when New York City became known as “The Big Apple”: 1920 
  • Why Steve Jobs called his computer company, Apple: On a “fruitarian” diet, and having recently visited an apple farm, he decided the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”
  • Direct references in the Bible that the forbidden fruit that Adam eats is an apple: 0
  • Percentage of apples sold commercially in the USA that are grown in Washington state: 60%
  • The apple variety that makes up 2/3’s of New England’s crop: McIntosh
  • How much faster apples ripen at room temperature than if refrigerated: 10 x
  • Percentage of an apple’s volume that is air: 25% (that’s why they float)
  • Number of apples it takes to create one gallon of apple cider: 36

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