The archetypal apple is – no two ways about it – red. There may be yellow apples or green apples in the grocery store too. In some places, you might even find varieties that are striped or mottled with a profusion of hues, like the gorgeous Cox’s Orange Pippin.
But red – or occasionally, pure, sharp Granny Smith green – is the colour of apples in most alphabet books. It’s an interesting detail, because apples were not always so resolutely monochrome.
The ancestors of the modern apple were wild trees growing in what is now Kazakhstan, on the western slope of the mountains which border western China. Today, wild apple trees still grow there, perfuming the air with fallen fruit and feeding the bears that lumber through the forest, although the wild apples’ numbers have shrunk by 90% in the last 50 years thanks to human development and their future is uncertain.