Johnny Appleseed, Historic Icon

Good Reads, 1st Entry

September 26th marks Johnny Appleseed Day. In his honor: read on to find out how this unique American’s history is woven together with cider, the Western frontier, and ultimately, prohibition. This is the first essay in our series of Good Reads, presented by The Good Cider.

Johnny Appleseed Chapman

Thoreau, another great American, notes in his essays on Natural History that an apple grown from the seed – as oppose to grafted – tastes “sour enough to set a squirrel’s teeth on edge and make a jay scream.” Why then would anyone elect to grow apple orchards straight from the seeds?

Well, in 1792 The Ohio Company agreed to grant 100 acres of unsettled land under the condition the land became a permanent home for the new settlers. To prove the new homestead was permanent, Ohio Company mandated that within the first three years of owning the new land the new settlers would plant an orchard containing at least 50 apple trees and 20 peach trees.

Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman, in true American entrepreneur spirit, saw a great opportunity. By staying one step ahead of frontiersmen, Johnny Appleseed could obtain new land from the Ohio Company, plant the required orchards, and sell the land off to other settlers. Not interested in how the fruit was going to be reaped from the orchard, and not permitted to graft due to teachings of hisSwedenborgian Church, Johnny Appleseed planted all his orchards with apple seeds.

Johnny Appleseed sowing apples

Johnny Appleseed sowing apples


Not only was this a great business plan, but the seeds sowed by Chapman still proved to be incredibly useful. Fermented apple juice, which is all hard cider is, became incredibly popular. The alcohol in the beverage insured that the drink was potable, and when water was often full of dangerous bacteria, this was a huge boon. Cider, compared to water, also offered plenty of other nutrients and natural sugars. Further, the sour apples gave cider a robust flavor profile. It has been reported that the average frontiersmen would consume nearly 11 ounces of cider a day.

For quite some time, hard cider was the choice beverage in America. Yet today it is just starting to get popular again. How did the cider fall out of popularity?

Well, during prohibition in the 1920s, Federal Agents went around chopping down all apple trees that produced inedible sour apples. Thus undoing much of Chapman’s earlier work. Once the ban on alcohol was lifted, beer emerged as America’s preferred beverage. However, we’re happy to report that Cider is the fastest growing beverage in America! Abroad in the old world, cider never fell out of popularity. Regions have developed their own unique cider flavor profiles, namely the Basque region of Spain, where The Good Cider is made.

So, in honor of Johnny Appleseed, we’re raising a glass of cider and suggest you do the same. And after trying an American Cider, we suggest trying one of our delicious hard ciders.

Sources: Smithsonian Magazine.

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