One of America’s favorite fruits wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for trade between two old- world continents.
Few things are more American than apple pie. But like many ideas now considered Americana, apples did not get their start in the United States. Like much of the food we eat, they evolved in the Old World.
And just like human Americans can be Polish, German and Swedish with a smattering of eastern European ancestry, apples can trace their roots back to different parts of Europe and Asia.
According to scientists, apples originally evolved in western Asia, where they spread from city to city and country to country via trade along the Silk Road.
But despite that origin story, the fruit you love to purchase at fruit stands and grocery stories is actually more closely related to European crab apples than its earlier Asiatic progenitors.
That’s according to scientists who studied the fruit’s genetic past and published their findings in the May issue of PLOS Genetics.
Those researchers found that the genes of today’s domestic apple crops look more like their sour European cousins than their better-tasting Asian ancestors. And that genetic relationship can teach us something unexpected about the historical relationship of people and the food we eat.
When you look closely, apples turn out to be multiracial. And it’s all thanks to people that far-flung fruit varieties started interbreeding again.