An apple for teacher . . .

24 09 2011

Ever wonder where the give an apple to the teacher tradition came from?

My parents have a variety of apple trees on their hobby farm and September is the best time of year to take advantage of the harvest before Newton’s principles of gravity kick in. Although I worked in the Produce Department of a local grocery store to pay my way through university, my ability to distinguish the pomme varieties at my parent’s place certainly needs a boost. I’m really good at identifying apple colours though.

There’s one scraggly tree near the chicken house that doesn’t get a whole lot of sun. The tree itself looks diseased and it hasn’t grown a whole lot in the last few years. The fruit it produces however, is something to behold. These apples are never uniform in shape, they an odd greenish-phlegm-yellow colour, but boy do they taste good. I brought a whole basket to my Ed 300 class a few years ago and it was a hit with my classmates – these apples had the perfect consistency, the correct amount of crunch and were very sweet to the taste. I’ve convinced my parents that this is my favorite apple and in doing so, I’m sure I’ve extended the lifespan of this particular tree (which is in a terribly inconvenient location).

According to, the juicy fruit is a traditional present for teachers in the U.S., Denmark and Sweden. Some think the practice of giving apples to teachers originated as a simple gift of food for poorly paid educators (insert your own editorial here). Others believe that the good health associated with apples made the present particularly meaningful. Whatever the case, I’ve talked to teachers who have received these from students at the beginning of the year and the simple gift always seems to bring a smile to the recipient’s face. Very cool.

This tradition received a boost from the scientific community recently (see According to an exhaustive European study involving over 20,000 people over a span of 10 years, it’s hard to dismiss the health benefits of eating apples.  The findings counter the widespread belief that the most healthful fruits and vegetables are those that come in deep, rich colors inside and out. The dark green of spinach and deep red of raspberries are produced by phytochemicals that are associated with better heart health and lower rates of cancer, prompting the common advice to “eat your colors.” Apples and pears, although red, light green or yellow on the outside, are typically considered “white” fruits because the inside of the fruit, which represents the largest edible portion, is white.

All the participants in the study, ages 20 to 65 and living in the Netherlands, were healthy and free of cardiovascular disease at the start. During the next 10 years, the investigators documented 233 strokes among the study participants. There was no relationship between stroke risk and consumption of any of the brightly colored fruits and vegetables. However, people who consumed at least 171 grams of white produce daily — equal to about one medium to large apple — had a 52 percent lower risk of stroke than those who ate less than 78 grams of white fruit a day. On average, every 25 grams of white fruit eaten daily was associated with a 9 percent lower risk for stroke.

So there you have it. Give your teacher an apple and in turn, lower their risk of a stroke. Besides, this teacher can tell you that giving away the homegrown, organic variety from a hobbyfarm will always put a smile on the recipient’s face. ;o)