Educational

Understanding the Psychology of Apple Products

Educational

Understanding the Psychology of Apple Products

Synopsis

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The apple tree (Malus pumila, commonly and erroneously called Malus domestica) is a deciduous tree in the rose family best known for its sweet, pomaceous fruit, the apple. It is cultivated worldwide as a fruit tree, and is the most widely grown species in the genus Malus. The tree originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, and were brought to North America by European colonists. Apples have religious and mythological significance in many cultures, including Norse, Greek and European Christian traditions.

Wild Malus sieversii apple in Kazakhstan The center of diversity of the genus Malus is in eastern present-day Turkey. The apple tree was perhaps the earliest tree to be cultivated,[17] and its fruits have been improved through selection over thousands of years. Alexander the Great is credited with finding dwarfed apples in Kazakhstan in 328 BCE;[5] those he brought back to Macedonia might have been the progenitors of dwarfing root stocks. Winter apples, picked in late autumn and stored just above freezing, have been an important food in Asia and Europe for millennia.[17]

Apples were introduced to North America by colonists in the 17th century,[5] and the first apple orchard on the North American continent was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625.[18] The only apples native to North America are crab apples, which were once called “common apples”.[19] Apple varieties brought as seed from Europe were spread along Native American trade routes, as well as being cultivated on Colonial farms. An 1845 United States apples nursery catalogue sold 350 of the “best” varieties, showing the proliferation of new North American varieties by the early 19th century.[19] In the 20th century, irrigation projects in Eastern Washington began and allowed the development of the multibillion-dollar fruit industry, of which the apple is the leading product.[5]

Until the 20th century, farmers stored apples in frostproof cellars during the winter for their own use or for sale. Improved transportation of fresh apples by train and road replaced the necessity for storage.[20][21] In the 21st century, long-term storage again came into popularity, as “controlled atmosphere” facilities were used to keep apples fresh year-round. Controlled atmosphere facilities use high humidity, low oxygen, and controlled carbon dioxide levels to maintain fruit freshness

In Norse mythology, the goddess Iðunn is portrayed in the Prose Edda (written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson) as providing apples to the gods that give them eternal youthfulness. English scholar H. R. Ellis Davidson links apples to religious practices in Germanic paganism, from which Norse paganism developed. She points out that buckets of apples were found in the Oseberg ship burial site in Norway, and that fruit and nuts (Iðunn having been described as being transformed into a nut in Skáldskaparmál) have been found in the early graves of the Germanic peoples in England and elsewhere on the continent of Europe, which may have had a symbolic meaning, and that nuts are still a recognized symbol of fertility in southwest England.[24]

Davidson notes a connection between apples and the Vanir, a tribe of gods associated with fertility in Norse mythology, citing an instance of eleven “golden apples” being given to woo the beautiful Gerðr by Skírnir, who was acting as messenger for the major Vanir god Freyr in stanzas 19 and 20 of Skírnismál. Davidson also notes a further connection between fertility and apples in Norse mythology in chapter 2 of the Völsunga saga when the major goddess Frigg sends King Rerir an apple after he prays to Odin for a child, Frigg’s messenger (in the guise of a crow) drops the apple in his lap as he sits atop a mound.[25] Rerir’s wife’s consumption of the apple results in a six-year pregnancy and the Caesarean section birth of their son—the hero Völsung.[26]

Further, Davidson points out the “strange” phrase “Apples of Hel” used in an 11th-century poem by the skald Thorbiorn Brúnarson. She states this may imply that the apple was thought of by Brúnarson as the food of the dead. Further, Davidson notes that the potentially Germanic goddess Nehalennia is sometimes depicted with apples and that parallels exist in early Irish stories. Davidson asserts that while cultivation of the apple in Northern Europe extends back to at least the time of the Roman Empire and came to Europe from the Near East, the native varieties of apple trees growing in Northern Europe are small and bitter. Davidson concludes that in the figure of Iðunn “we must have a dim reflection of an old symbol: that of the guardian goddess of the life-giving fruit of the other world.”[24]

Brandon Gamber is a Minnesota-based programmer, designer, writer, and artist. When he's not developing websites, he enjoys sophisticated conversations and understanding what really matters in life.

  • Apple, Aesthetics, Psychology