The apple is one of the most cultivated fruits in the world, in fact the apple plant, called Malus communis or Malus domestica, has a history that has lasted for millennia, and probably originated in Western Asia, from where it first spread to Greece, then in the rest of Europe, and centuries later in the rest of the world. The success of this fruit is certainly due to its peculiar characteristics: it is sweet and can be eaten both fresh and raw, both in compotes, jams or other dishes that involve cooking, both sweet and savory. It is rich in nutrients, juicy, and above all easy to preserve: even millennia ago the apple crop could be kept for months, placing the fresh fruit in a place sheltered from light, sun and winter cold. Thanks to these characteristics the apple is grown in most of the globe, where over the years many hybrids and cultivars have been produced, with different organoleptic characteristics, shape, color, taste, but also cultivation: some varieties are in fact more resistant to cold , others better tolerate heat or drought, others are particularly resistant to the most common diseases.
In general, however, these are rustic plants, which withstand the heat quite well, and which can easily withstand the winter cold, also considering that the loss of the leaves in autumn leads the apple tree to enter a period of complete vegetative rest, which protects the plant with frost even intense.
How to grow them
The apple tree is a small tree, which easily reaches ten meters in height, with enlarged foliage and small deciduous leaves, dark green in color; in spring it produces innumerable small flowers of white or rosé color, followed by the fruits, generally gathered in small clusters, of 4-5 specimens, with the central specimen of greater dimensions.
In orchards, varieties with a not excessive development are preferred, ranging from 150-180 cm in dwarf varieties, up to a maximum of 2-4 meters in the most common varieties, in order to facilitate pruning and fruit picking, and pesticide treatments.
They are placed in a very sunny place, with a good soil of medium texture, well worked, and enriched at the end of winter with mature manure.
Watering is provided only from April to September, and only when the soil appears dry: excessive watering can indeed promote the development of root rot.
The apple tree bears its fruit on the old branches, it is important to take this into account when deciding to prune the plant; in fact apple tree pruning occurs on a regular basis only in the first years of the plant's life, in order to provide it with a beautiful, wide and enlarged shape; in the following years, at the end of winter, only intervention is carried out to remove the branches ruined by the weather, or the branches excessively developed upwards, so as to round off the foliage. Drastic pruning of a ripe apple can lead to the complete lack of fruit.
The apple tree produces hermaphrodite flowers, but unfortunately every flower does not self-pollinate; in large orchards bees or other pollinating insects are used to bring plant pollen into the plant, and get a good harvest. In family orchards it is good to plant at least two specimens of apple trees, taking care to choose two varieties that bloom in the same period of the year.
The apple tree is hit by a good number of parasites, which generally do not seriously damage the plant, but which can compromise the harvest of fruits; some varieties are particularly resistant to some fungal diseases, but we hardly find apples resistant to animal pests.
Among the most common fungal diseases we find scab and powdery mildew, with the second one particularly striking in spring.
Among the most common insects we find the aphids, the monilia, the fruit fly, the rodilegno.
The treatments are practiced only case by case, when we see the presence of insects or fungi on the plant; in any case it is good to wait at least 15 days after the treatments before picking the apples.
Apple - Malus domestica: Variety of apples
The millennia of cultivation have led to the existence of thousands of varieties of apple; the most commonly cultivated varieties in the orchard, especially in the case of commercial orchards, are those that produce more numerous fruits, of regular size, uniform coloring, and easy to keep. We say that the most widespread varieties, such as the golden delicious, or the red delicious, are "standard" apples, that is with compact and juicy pulp, quite sweet, slightly elongated shape, yellow or red color without shades. In reality there are numerous varieties with interesting characteristics, such as particularly sweet, or particularly sour pulp; disease resistance, or particular form. Fortunately, in recent years the ancient varieties of apple have been rediscovered, those which, before globalization, were cultivated in the various regions of the globe; these apples are more interesting than "standard" apples, although perhaps the crops are not so abundant, or the fruits cannot be transported so easily.
The return of the ancient apple varieties to orchards is particularly important to those who care about biodiversity; in fact the worldwide standardization of apple cultivation can lead to devastating results in the event that a single insect or fungus, changed over the years, goes to destroy the most widespread apple cultivars; only by keeping the ancient specimens, and in good numbers, does it guarantee us over time to be able to draw on a source of fruit that can be resistant to the "new" parasites that can spread throughout the world.
Fortunately, there are now many small farmers who have decided to go back to growing their grandparents' apples, reproduced in large numbers by grafting the scars of the few specimens left on numerous plants; in this way, in addition to maintaining the biodiversity of a fruit so widespread, we will return to taste apples with a particular taste, an unusual color, and also an unusual shape or size.