Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 November 2009
Issue No. 971
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Lubna Abdel-Aziz

Apple and Eve

Eve must have known there was something special about the apple. It looked so perfect, so appealing perched on its tree, in the Garden of Eden. The shape, almost a full circle with a hollow dent, the colour a blazing red that glistens in the morning mist, and that hypnotic perfume that wafts through your nostrils to reach the depth of your soul. Certainly the taste would be no less than its visual assets. And so it was; and the human race was to sacrifice spiritual grace and absolution for the sake of insatiable epicurean pleasures, not the least among them, is the sweet honey that oozes from a cool crisp apple, as you dig your teeth inside its flesh.

Irresistible temptation

While it could not provide eternal paradise, the apple tried to do its best to make it up to Eve and Adam. Apart from its ability to be grown everywhere, except in the coldest and hottest climates, it has developed into thousands of varieties ranging from very sweet to tarty sour, from pale yellow to velvet green, from light orange to dark red.

Though not the most favourite fruit worldwide, the banana is, people have enjoyed the delicious flavour of the apple since prehistoric times. If not eaten fresh, the apple obliges by its versatility with its baked pies and tarts and other tasty dishes. We drink its juice, spread its butter, savour its sauce and jelly, and imbibe its wine. We bob for apples, coat them with caramel, use some grades for cider and vinegar, and we dry freeze or can them. Apples have appeared in legends, poems and religious texts throughout history. Some may remember the Swiss legend of William Tell, the archer who gains his freedom from a tyrant by shooting an apple off his son's head. Tell does so, saving himself and his son, and later kills the tyrant with another arrow.

The Swiss have resorted to the apple once again to create a mini-revolution, this time in the big business of Beauty. In the land of Switzerland apple orchards flourish. There was one apple tree, the Uttwiler Spötlauber, which was not doing so well because its fruit was unbearably tart. The tree was neglected, and many died out, except for three lonely trees that still bore fruit in one enchanted apple orchard. While no one wished to eat the fruit, it was observed that once picked off the tree, the inedible apple continued to flourish, while its brothers and sisters, more savoury and succulent, began to shrivel and wither. Moreover, if the tree's bark or unpicked fruit was penetrated, it had the ability to heal itself, just like we do. What is the secret of this apple's resilience? Why does it remain alive while all the others die? It was not long before the scientists at Mibelle, a Swiss biochemical lab, began their process of examination, discovery and conclusions. Could this really be their clue? Stem cells? That is the main occupation of all biologists nowadays for treatment of human organs and longevity.

The function of stem cells in all living things, humans included, is to maintain and repair tissues. That is the main occupation of science today. Can one lowly bitter inedible apple help? Can the Uttwiler Spötlauber apple regenerate skin elasticity, erase wrinkles, return that beautiful glow to our aging countenance, asked the scientists? Clinical tests proved that the apple's stem cells indeed come to man's help. Like a fountain of youth, they appeared to protect the human stem cells, nourish and stimulate them. Word got out to other laboratories within Switzerland and elsewhere. Now the apple stem cell extract is easily available at cosmetic counters and hailed as the biggest Cosmeceutical discovery - the anti-aging phenomenon of 2009. This novel technology discovered by chance, has not only saved the Uttwiler Spötlauber from extinction, but has ensured its longevity and maybe ours.

Anti-aging has occupied us since time immemorial. Eve herself may have been dismayed on observing her reflection, to see extra wrinkles on her face and body. We continue to seek every means of extending our youthful glow, even if we have to subject ourselves to a surgeon's knife. Now we have one more means that is not only organic, but pleasant and agreeable and smelling like a rose, which comes naturally to the apple, since apples belong to the rose family Rosacea.

Perhaps the apple has always been that fountain of youth we seek endlessly_together with its many relatives the coconut, the kiwi, citrus fruits, avocados, milk and vegetable oils. We were so busy eating them, we neglected applying them externally to our biggest organ, the skin. If they can do good from within, why not from without?

The earliest of all cultivated tees, the apple tree originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor is still found today. It appears in many religious traditions, often as a mystical or forbidden fruit. It is frequently referred to in Greek and Norse Mythology and experts are divided as to the origin of the traditional tale of Eve tempting Adam to partake of the apple. Whether the tale is derived from ancient myths or not, the story of the apple and Adam and Eve remains symbol of sexual seduction. The apple is the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, of good and evil, immortality and temptation, the fall of man in sin, and of sin itself. In Latin the word for apple or evil are similar in the singular (Malus - apple, Malum - evil) and identical in the plural (Mala ).

Sinful or not, the apple has redeemed itself for humanity by being so tasteful, so delicious, so refreshing, so nutritious. It contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and more. Research suggests apples may reduce the risk of colon, prostate and lung cancer. Not only does it keep the foctor away, but the dentist as well. Biting into a crisp crumbly apple, is an effective method of removing food particles between the teeth. Now the apple may also keep the cosmetic surgeon away, or at least delay his ready knife, due to its regenerative powers.

So, hurrah for the apple which is doing all it can to save Eve's fall from grace, which was followed by poor Adam's.

I can resist everything except temptation
-- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

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