Thursday, June 22, 2006

the sun and the rain and the apple seed

free apples from wild oats
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Sketchy though they were, the biographical facts were enough to make anyone question the saintly Golden Books version of Johnny Appleseed (the child bride?!), but it was a single botanical fact about the seeds themselves that made me realize that his story had been lost, probably on purpose.

The fact, simply, is this: apples don’t “come true” from seeds – that is, an apple tree grown from a seed will be a wildling bearing little resemblance to its parent. Anyone who wants edible apples plants grafted trees, for the fruit of seedling apples is almost always inedible – “sour enough,” Thoreau once wrote, “to set a squirrel’s teeth on edge and make a jay scream.”

Thoreau claimed to like the taste of such apples, but most of country men judged them good for little but hard cider – and hard cider was the fate of most apples grown in America up until Prohibition. Apples were something people drank. The reason people in Brilliant wanted John Chapman to stay and plant a nursery was the same reason he would soon be welcome in every other cabin in Ohio: Johnny Appleseed was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier.
From «The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World» by Michael Pollan

(Am I the only one who thinks it's cool that this guy is writing about plants and his name is Pollan?)

1 comment:

Derek Baird said...

you know, i read that book (it's fantastic), but i never made the Pollan-pollen connection. doh!

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