The lengthening shadows and shorter days of October bring to mind Virginia’s much celebrated bountiful apple harvest. Depicting a scene of typical everyday life in the Netherlands, a vendor pushing a cart of ripe apples on this Dutch tile graced a fireplace in an upper class home on Jamestown Island in the mid-seventeenth century. By this time, apple orchards helped fulfill the colonists’ need for fresh fruit in Virginia. Although today we think of the apple as the quintessential American fruit, it is not native to the New World. Apple seeds, cuttings, or saplings were brought by early Virginia colonists for cultivation. From the beginning, apples flourished in Virginia, as John Smith noted in 1629. He wrote that among other fruits raised in the colony, apples “prospered exceedingly.”
In 1615, Gervase Markham published an instruction book specifically for women called The English-Housewife. A copy of this book was sent to Virginia along with the ninety brave single maids who came in 1620, and may have helped some establish their households in the New World. A delicious-sounding recipe for “Apple Tart,” instructed wives to: “Take apples and pare them, and slice them thin from the core into a pipkin with white wine, good store of sugar, cinnamon, a few sanders, and rose-water, and boil it till it be thick’ ….” However, at that early date, the colonists preferred using apples to make hard cider rather than tarts!