Deep into "apple" history

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For Almaty citizens apple, "Oporto" sort in particular, is a symbol of homeland. There is no Almaty citizen who would not have own story about Oporto. Or this person is not Almaty citizen.
Catherine Pesh, French scientist and the author and director of the film "Apple, from Eden garden to the GAP" admitted that apple allowed her to get know and fall in love with our country where the roots of past and future "apple story" are intertwined.

The fact of the wild apple trees growing on the slopes of Trans-Ili Alatau is interesting and unique by itself. Man has subdued and domesticated everything that is possible and left very few places where nature is preserved in its original form. And we have such places! How the nature itself preserved its fruits without human intervention? The answer to this question can be found in the virgin fruit forests in Kazakhstan. This is the most valuable natural wealth, and it has exceptional economic potential.

 

Area of wild apple thickets is about 11,000 hectares in the Alatau Mountains. The world's largest resources of wild apple trees are concentrated here. Apple forests in Trans-Ili and Jungar Alatau are called genetic center of origin for wild apples on the planet. This hypothesis, expressed by Academician Nikolai Vavilov in the late 20th of the last century, has been confirmed by world scientific community modern research where Academician A. Dzhangaliev’s works occupy an important place.

he first information about the wild apple tree in the Southeast Kazakhstan belongs to scientist-pharmacist and member of Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences John Sievers, who lived in the eighteenth century. He traveled a lot throughout Siberia and left very interesting notes. Unique wild apple tree in the region was named after him. Its small bright vinous fruits have juicy crimson flesh and a very distinctive sweet-sour taste.

In 1929, a genial biologist Nikolai Vavilov after surveying Almaty foothills wrote about Sievers apple the following: "You could see with your own eyes that we are in a wonderful center of origin of a cultural apple. Some forms are so good in quality and size  of fruits that they could be simply transferred to the garden."

Central Asian part of the wild apple trees genetic diversity is the primary and the earliest hearth of domesticating apple trees around the globe, and Sievers apple is the ancestor of the most sorts of cultural apple. In the past, the Great Silk Road passed through these places. This way apple tree spread from here to the east and west with caravans.

Modern forests where Sievers apple grows have the same value as mineral deposits. This is the real wealth of the country. Research by scientists from France, USA, England, Germany and Russia allowed to prove that wild apples of Dzhungar and Trans-Ili Alatau are the major genetic basis of all sorts of apples on our planet. Dr Barrie Juniper from Oxford University studied the structure of DNA of 2500 cultivars of apple. It turned out that the structure of DNA of all sorts is identical to one of our wild apple. Geneticist Francois Laurence from IMRA, large French research center, gives lectures and continues genetic studies based on these data.

Based on paleontological research, scientists have found that apple trees existed here in the middle of the Cretaceous period. According to Biology Dictionary published by the USSR Academy of Sciences the time of wild Sievers apple genesis is dated as 165 million years ago. Only twenty seven species of wild apple trees exist in the world. But just few of the wild fruits have good taste. Our wild apples are favorably distinguished by their "consumer" qualities.

Wild apple trees, growing on steep slopes, reach sometimes 30 meters in height, there are some extant giants whose age is 130 years. Wild apple trees are not afraid of temperature changes from -40 to +40. These "natives" withstood a variety of natural disasters and pests and can help people to improve existing varieties. These samples are invaluable for breeding works which, by the way, are in progress in Europe and in the U.S. where from cuttings and seeds from Kazakhstan have grown new apple orchards - a source of pride for foreign geneticists.

The first U.S. expedition team of apple heritage researchers visited our country in 1989. Total of seven international scientific expeditions were organized to Ile Alatau. All scientific papers on this subject published in Kazakhstan (especially works of Professor Aimak Dzhangaliev) have been translated into English and cause a great interest among researchers.

Breeders assert that "wildings" content more nutrients than its cultured "sisters". Wild apple fruits contain many biologically active substances and trace elements that presents a great value for the food industry because cultivars have lost some valuable qualities of wild predecessors. Wild apple possess such economically valuable traits like winter hardiness, longevity, resistance to disease and etc. "Wildings" have different shapes, sizes and taste. Aftertaste of some varieties resemble grape, other - strawberries. You can make certain of this, if you take a walk at the end of August across the mountain slopes near Almaty where reams of them grow.

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