Lisa Halvorsen, Garden Writer
For University of Vermont Extension
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
We've all heard that old adage, but did you also know that apples could predict marriages or deaths, cure warts, and test the fidelity of lovers? At least somepeople believed so.
Throughout history, apples have played a prominent part in the culture and folklore of many different societies. Although most people recognized this fruit for its food value, many also used the apple and the apple tree to explain happenings and to foretell future events.
The custom of tossing an apple peel over the left shoulder to learn the initial of a future mate has survived throughout the centuries. In some cultures if the peel remains whole it's a sure sign of marriage. A split means life as a spinster or a bachelor.
It was customary in Sicily for a young woman to find her future husband by throwing an apple from her window to the street on Midsummer's Eve. However, if another woman picked it up first, it meant that the girl would not marry that year. If no one touched it, the young lady, once married, would soon be widowed.
In Austria a young girl would sleep with an apple under her pillow on Christmas night. She carried that apple in her hand to the next festival of the church. The first man she saw, other than a relative, would become her husband.
Apples have been used to predict how long a person will live. In Northamptonshire, England, it was believed that "a bloom upon the apple tree when apples are ripe, is a sure termination of someone's life."
The English also thought that to dream of fruit or flowers out of season was a bad omen, usually a sign of death. But dreaming of apples or any sort of crop during its proper season meant good luck.
Historically, the apple has been popular as a medical agent. Its juice has been used as a potent against warts, and a poultice of rotten apples as a cure for eyes affected by rheumatism or weakness.
Arabic tribes considered it the healing fruit. Ancient Greek peasants believed their gods, when they felt old age approaching, "tasted of the apple" to become young again.
This fruit has even been used to describe certain personality traits. Selfishness may be noted "to give an apple where there is an orchard." A worthless person may be described by saying, "there is a small choice in rotten apples" or "the rotten apple injures its neighbor."
Most farmers knew that "if good apples you would have, the leaves must go into the grave," or "you must plant your trees in the fall of the leaf." They also believed that apples would "shrump up" or shrivel if picked during a waning moon.
Since apples played such as important rile in daily life, it was essential to have a productive harvest. To ensure a good apple crop, farmers often placed a piece of toast in the fork of their biggest tree. And they prayed for good weather on Christmas Day, knowing that if the sun shone through the apple treesthat day that the crop would be abundant the following year.
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