Controversy erupted last week in the world of botany when the International Journal of Modern Botany published a new study comparing apples and oranges. The study, entitled “A Comparison of the Essential Properties of the Fruits of the Malus domestica and Citrus sinensis,” was conducted by scientists at the North South Wales Centre for Botanical Research.
Lead botanist Romuold Flanders claims this study is an important turning point for the study of fruit trees, and botany in general. “In nearly every other discipline, the modern thought has broken away from centuries-old prejudices and the confines of reality-based logic: in philosophy, politics, education, law, even medicine and some of the sciences,” said he. “We are building bridges and breaking down barriers.”
Fellow researcher Thomas Naranja agreed, saying, “For years we have been limited by the arbitrary categorisation of these two fruits as essentially different, and we are now discovering certain properties that could join two schools of thought previously considered irreconcilable.”
Some examples given in the study include that both apples and oranges are choice fruits for making juice, and both juices are often drunk at breakfast; that both do, in fact, grow on trees; and that while apples are normally red or green, and oranges more of a yellow-orange, they both do have coloured skin. The fact that oranges have tough rinds and apples have thin skins does not, according to this study, constitute a difference of essence, and in fact many people do not eat apple skins any more than orange peels, and some who do eat apple skins also enjoy eating the orange peel.
There is even evidence that the ancients were aware of the many similarities between apples and oranges, as two drawings in a cave in Italy demonstrate. While one appears to be a pastel drawing and the other is oil paint, the juxtaposition of the two clearly shows a comparative attempt. Prior to this study, art historian and geneticist Émilie Chimera, who has also written a children’s book about fruit, analysed the two drawings and determined, based on similarities of shading and brushstrokes, that they must have been made by a parent and child in the same family.
This study could spark a new age of technological progress in the cultivation and production of fruit, which would be especially beneficial in regions where only one of these fruits has been successfully grown in the past. Not only can they be mixed in a blender to make a smoothy, the study suggests we may one day be able to graft the two trees together so they can be picked and eaten fresh by one and the same hand. Research is also in progress to create an orangey apple and an appley orange, fruits which would look and taste like both at the same time.
“Apples and Oranges,” by Paul Cezanne. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.