National Johnny Appleseed Day falls on March 11 every year. The occasion honors the life of American conservationist and nurseryman John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Appleseed was a folk hero who was instrumental in introducing apple trees to large parts of the United States. His story has been mythologized commonly as a children’s folk tale, with many questioning whether he existed or not. He did, though, and he is revered as a figure who helped alter America’s natural and agricultural landscape with his apple tree fields.
History of National Johnny Appleseed Day
To really know who Johnny Appleseed was, we must first look at the myths. He was born on September 26, 1774, in Massachusetts as John Chapman. He first developed a passion for apples following an apprenticeship under a local apple orchardist. This experience inspired him to set out West to share his knowledge about apples and plant as many trees as he could. A very religious man, he saw his efforts to spread apple trees as a way for him to help alleviate world hunger.
The most popular myth about Appleseed is that he merrily traveled across the United States, usually on foot, spreading apple seeds wherever he went. In reality, Appleseed took a more proper approach of planting nurseries of saplings on tracts of land that he purchased. He would place the care of the nursery to a neighbor or friend whenever he traveled.
Another myth is that Appleseed planted apple trees across the United States. The truth, however, is that he primarily planted trees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia. It is believed that he planted more than 100,000 square miles of apple trees. However, the apples that grew from his trees were not the sweet variety that is commonly eaten. They were primarily the small, sour ones mainly used for making apple cider. Apple cider was an important beverage for American pioneers as many did not have access to clean drinking water on their travels.
Appleseed was known in his lifetime as an eccentrically dressed, shrewd businessman who possessed a knack for predicting where pioneer settlers would settle and planting nurseries in these areas. Soon, word of his exploits spread, and the legend was born. Appleseed is viewed as an important figure in American history. This is not only because of his agricultural work but also for his efforts in helping to ensure the success of migration and altering the natural landscape.
National Johnny Appleseed Day timeline
Neolithic farmers in modern Central Asia first cultivate wild apples.
Apples are introduced to the New World by the Puritans at the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Johnny Appleseed, named John Chapman, is born in Massachusetts.
Appleseed establishes his first apple tree nursery in Warren, Pennsylvania.
Appleseed dies in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
National Johnny Appleseed Day FAQs
Was Johnny Appleseed religious?
Appleseed was a very religiously devoted man. He saw his efforts as a way to thank and appreciate God for giving him life. Besides his work as a conservationist and nurseryman, he also worked as a missionary for the New Swedenborgian Church and spread the gospel during his travels.
What did Johnny Appleseed look like?
Accounts say that Appleseed was a “small, wiry man with thin lips, and long, dark hair.” He was seen as a man with an eccentric yet simple sense of fashion, known for donning threadbare clothes, a tin hat, and being regularly shoeless.
How long does it take for an apple tree to grow?
Apple trees can take about five to 10 years to grow from seed to bearing fruit. Standard-sized trees take about four to eight years to produce fruit after being planted. Meanwhile, some smaller trees can bear fruit in as little as two years after planting.
National Johnny Appleseed Day Activities
Enjoy apples, any way you choose
To celebrate National Johnny Appleseed Day is to celebrate the apple itself. Whether eaten whole or used in a variety of dishes (such as pie, cobbler, and cakes), there’s no better way to celebrate the apple than by savoring its sweet, distinctive flavor.
Brew and drink some apple cider
If you prefer your apples in liquid form, why not brew and enjoy some apple cider to commemorate the day? During his lifetime, Appleseed’s apples were mainly used to make apple cider — so making some yourself is a fitting way to honor his legacy.
Watch the short that elevated his legend
The legend of Appleseed was immortalized through “The Legend of Johnny Appleseed,” an animated short from Disney’s 1948 film “Melody Time.” This holiday is a great opportunity to watch the short and understand how much current knowledge of his legend is shaped by this piece of art.
5 Interesting Facts About Apples
Apples have shaped the world
Some of the most famous apples in history include Isaac Newton’s gravity-defining apple, Eve’s “forbidden” apple, and, of course, Steve Jobs’ Apple brand.
Apples are less dense than water
Apples can float in water because they are 25% air.
There are countless varieties
There are more than 7,500 to 8,000 apple variants in the world, with 2,500 grown in the United States.
Watch where you put your apples!
Apples ripen eight to 10 times faster at room temperature.
It’s the perfect healthy snack
The average apple holds about 80 calories.
Why We Love National Johnny Appleseed Day
It celebrates a wonderful fruit
National Johnny Appleseed Day draws attention to the wonders of the apple. Apples are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and K, and are always a healthy snack alternative. In addition to the benefits, they’re also simply delicious! Appleseed made more people aware of these benefits, and we thank him for this.
It acknowledges all he’s done for America
Appleseed’s plentiful apple trees helped supply cider makers and pioneers with ample material to make cider. His apple trees, therefore, helped sustain numerous lives and businesses, keeping migration going and local economies afloat.
It honors a man who devoted himself to others
By bringing apple trees to large parts of the United States, Appleseed was also fulfilling his religious duties as someone who brings goods to the Earth. Driven by his love for his fellow man, his God, and the ground beneath his feet, Appleseed managed to bring change and happiness to many lives through his good work.
National Johnny Appleseed Day dates