Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Apples and Other Fruits of the Rose Family
Nature Bulletin No. 277-A   October 7, 1967
Forest Preserve District of Cook County 
Richard B. Ogilvie, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

Bread, meat and potatoes, with vegetables and green salads, may satisfy the inner man and keep us healthy but much of the fun of eating is provided by the rose family. The rose, itself, is the flower of chivalry and love but its relative, the apple, king of the fruits, has been cultivated since prehistoric times. The members of the Rose Family give us more pleasure than we get from any other group of plants.

Apples, quinces, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries -- whether wild or cultivated -- are all relatives of the roses. Their fruits, raw or cooked, give us desserts, pleasant drinks, and many a between-meal delicacy. Typically, they have showy flowers with five equal petals arranged around a central cup bearing one or more fruit-forming pistils and a large number of pollen-bearing stamens. Their leaves are placed alternately on the twigs or stalks -- some of them simple leaves; some of them compound leaves divided into three, five or more leaflets like the rose itself. Some are trees, some are shrubs, and some are vining herbs.

This year, with plenty of rainfall throughout spring and summer, our Cook County forest preserves have yielded an unusual abundance of wild fruits of the rose family. The little wild strawberries, hidden among their foliage and the grass, were plentiful and each packed with more flavor than their cultivated relatives. Black raspberries -- sitting like thick purplish-black caps on white knobs -- and heavy sprays of dead- ripe blackberries, were larger and juicier than in most years. The wild stone fruits -- the plums, black cherries and choke cherries -- were unusually large and fine this year. Red haws, the edible fruit of the hawthorn, resembling miniature apples, now blanket the ground or cling to their leafless trees and tempt the autumn hiker to taste them or gather them for jelly. Plump wild crabapples, though hard and sour when raw, may be picked and made into jellies, jams and preserves -- alone or in combination with wild grapes or some other fruit.

There is an old saying that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away", but this is not strictly true. Along with other large fruits of this plant family, apples are rich in flavor, sugar and starch but poorer in vitamins than other common foods. Certain varieties of plums, called prunes, are an exception: being a source of some important vitamins and rich in minerals. Strawberries and raspberries are rich in Vitamin C, and rose hips -- the berry-like fruit of roses -- are one of the richest sources known. During World War II, when Britain was unable to import oranges, lemons and other vitamin-rich fruit, rose hips were gathered and made into syrup to supplement their diet.

The United States is the greatest apple country in the world, but they are grown farther north and over a wider area of the globe than any other fruit. Some one has said, too, that the apple pleases all of our senses. Eaten raw, baked or fried; made into apple pie, apple butter, apple sauce, apple jelly or apple cider; they tickle the taste buds of Americans oftener than any other fruit. Their fragrance, especially at a cider mill or in a cellar, is unsurpassed. Cur eyes are gladdened by their gay colors in a roadside stand or in an orchard of trees loaded and bending with them. The cool smooth rounded symmetry of an apple fits nicely into the palm of a human hand. And the muffled thump of a mellow apple falling to the ground on an autumn day, or the munching of it in the mouth of a hungry youngster, is music to the ear.

So, polish up a nice red one and bring it to your teacher !

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