Apples Botany Production and Uses. From the 13th century, apples became more and more widely planted throughout Europe in gardens of royalty and commoners. Raw apples were seldom consumed, but they were more greatly prized when cooked and sometimes blended with spices and sugar or honey.
Fermented juice, or cider, like beer, was preferred to the occasionally questionable local water-supply. By the 17th century, there were at least 120 cultivars described in western Europe. The rise and spread of Protestantism, which saw the apple as the special fruit of God, is credited with expanding apple cultivation across northern and eastern Europe after beginning in Germany in the early 17th century.
By the end of the 18th century, many hundreds of cultivars were recognized throughout Europe. The Royal Horticultural Society of England acknowledged at least 1200 in 1826. The 18th and 19th centuries saw apple cultivars identified and classified based on their suitability for their end uses. Aromatic dessert apples were more widely appreciated by this time, while good cooking types were still recognized for puddings and pastries.
Flavourful cultivars with moderate acid and tannin levels were prized for cider production. The late 19th and early 20th centuries represented the maximum of diversity in apple cultivation in Europe, with hundreds of locally popular cultivars being grown in thousands of small orchards.
In the 20th century, the rise of imported fruit from the Americas, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa forced European farms to increase in size and decrease in number and, to a large extent, to adopt the very same cultivars that were developed in and imported from the New World.
Apples were established in the 1650s near Cape Town in South Africa to sustain settlers and to supply the ships of the Dutch East India Company. The commercial apple orchard district in the Western Cape was started by Cecil Rhodes and his associates in the late 19th and early 20th century to replace a faltering wine industry.
Apples were introduced to Australia, on the island of Tasmania and at the present site of Sydney, in 1788. Orchards were established by settlers in Tasmania and New South Wales by the early 1800s.
Significant production areas were eventually developed in Tasmania and the south-eastern mainland. In 1814, English missionaries brought apples from Australia to New Zealand, where two large apple-production districts became established in the districts of Hawke’s Bay and Nelson during the 19th and 20th centuries.