By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we’ve decided to highlight five tree species whose fruits and nuts would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal! For our first feature, it’s a focus on apples, with a recipe for wine-marinated apple slices, a perfect appetizer before the big meal!
The ancestor of the modern cultivated apple tree (Malus domestica) originated in central Asia, and some researchers believe that it was the first tree cultivated by mankind, though there’s some dispute over when exactly that is. One thing that is for sure is the vast number of apple varieties. The tree has spread to every continent except Antarctica, with more than 7,000 varieties of apple found today.
Differing apple varieties are so common because they are considered extremely heterozygous, meaning that there is a tremendous amount of potential genetic variation between parents and children. This allows for apple trees to adapt to a variety of climates over several generations. This becomes slightly exasperating for commercial apple growers, as there is no guarantee that the seed of a particularly delicious type of apple will result in the same taste — in fact, it will most likely be completely different! As a result, most commercial apples are bred through grafting, where a branch is bound to rootstock in order to create a genetic clone of the donor tree.
The apple is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 30 feet in the wild. The leaves are dark green, slightly lighter on the underside, and are ovular with serrated edges. When spotted in orchards, the trees will often only grow to a height of 6 to15 feet due to cultivation. During the spring, the tree will flower with five white petals with a pinkish tinge. After pollination, the flowers will mature into the titular fruit during late summer or autumn.
Apples contributed $1.7 billion to the U.S. economy, with the first apples being introduced to the Americas by early European settlers. Rather than eating the fruit raw, one of the most popular ways to preserve the apples from early orchards was to turn it into an alcoholic hard cider. The rise of the temperance movement, as well as large-scale industrial growing has caused the number of varieties of American apples to drop since the fruit’s heyday in the mid-1800s.
Wine-Marinated Apple Slices
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup peach schnapps
- ½ cup cranberry juice
- 1 Tsp. lemon juice
- 3 large apples, sliced
- Mix together wine, schnapps and juices.
- Slice apples and place in marinade.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Drain before serving.
- Serve with crackers and cheese.
A version of this recipe was originally published by Genius Kitchen.