Easy to grow, the apple tree was already known in prehistoric times. Originating in central Asia, the apple was known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome where 32 varieties were listed. Very popular in the Middle Ages, it could be found in the orchards of Louis XIV where Quintinie (1624-1691, creator of King Louis XIV’s kitchen garden) grew at least eight varieties. The first settlers brought plants from Normandy to New France. They acclimated quite easily. Today, worldwide, there are over 7,000 varieties.
Marking apples, a technique for the glory of king and fruit
King Louis XIV, the Sun King in his château at Versailles, wanted to eat only foods that were out of the ordinary and that were apart from the foods of common mortals. For him to accept to eat fruit, necessary for his health, a marking technique was used on apples and pears. The choicest fruits were selected at the beginning of summer and bagged. At the end of summer, a sort of mask in the king’s likeness was placed on the fruit. In early autumn, the masks were removed and, the fruit having ripened, there was a green portrait of the king on the fruit, distinguishing it from ordinary produce.
The origin of this technique dates from well before the Sun King. Toward the end of the 12th century, the Andalusian Arab agronomist Ibn Al’Awwam mentioned the technique in The Book of Agriculture. Marking apples was also very popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries, as can be seen at international exhibitions. At the time, this technique allowed producers of luxury fruit at Montreuil, near Paris, to face ardent competition from overseas competitors. Today, it is in Asia that marked fruit seem to be fashionable as gifts laden with symbolism, decorative objects, and even gifts to the gods.