In the garden today, we have two fruit trees: Apple and Apricot.
Apples are so popular as to need little introduction. They are used for eating raw, pressing into juice, cider and wine, baking, cooking, and canning in butters, chutneys and jams. The acids in the apple makes them one of the easiest foods to digest, thus the popularity of apple sauce for babies, the sick, infirm, and undernourished. These acids also help in digesting other heavier foods such as pork and goose.
The saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is being found to have some truth, as the fiber in the flesh, and the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals found in and just under the skin of the apple have been found to prevent colon cancer, among other cancers, heart disease, weight loss, and controlling cholesterol. Apples are also good for the teeth, as biting into the flesh pushes back the gums of the teeth and the juices clean them as you eat.
Apples are usually propagated by grafting, as seeds are unpredictable in growth. Dwarfing rootstocks are thought to be descended from those discovered in Asia Minor by Alexander the Great. These are often used by commercial and home growers, as they increase yield while decreasing size of the tree (less worry about pickers atop tall ladders) and the space used (more trees for orchard).
As apple trees must cross-pollinate to make fruit, at least two trees are needed for production, as are bees to do the work.
Apricots came to Europe from China by way of Armenia, introduced to Greece by (again!) Alexander the Great. Despite their fame in California and the Mediterranean, Apricots are hardy in USDA zones 5-8, or anywhere where temps do not drop below -30C. That said, Apricots flower early, around the time of the vernal equinox, and post-equinox frosts can kill the blossoms—thus being a troublesome problem in many parts of North America, where weather vacillates greatly in the winter. Hybridizing with Siberian Apricot is suggested to boost the hardiness of trees in these areas. Apricots do not need companions, as they are self-compatible when pollinating.
The flesh can be eaten raw, dried for a tasty snack (excellent dipped in semi-sweet or dark chocolate!), or used in jams, chutneys, or baking and cooking. The kernels are pressed for an oil used in much the same way as sweet almond oil, but less expensively.