Apple growing in Asturias is closely linked to the history of Asturias. In the absence of prior written statements, there is evidence of the presence of apple in Asturias before the Roman invasion, through the Latin writers, the first historical reference going back to the time of the early inhabitants, the Astures. In the words of Elvira Martinez, "the apple tree was, therefore, in the 8th to 10th centuries an integral part of our landscape, a determining element of our country houses (‘quintanas’) and an irreplaceable resource of food (...) In the 12th and 13th centuries, utilization of the apple tree is the largest arboreal wealth of the region." The result of the economic importance of this activity is the private-legal regulation in so-called ‘masonry’ or property contracts, a generalised customary institution between the 11th and 14th centuries, involving the transfer of land from one individual to another for planting apple trees.
Adam and Eve
It is possible to think about the Eastern origin of the apple, about the special Christian tradition that associates this fruit with the original sin of Adam and Eva. It is thought that the origin of this tradition has been demonstrated in previous works, not been born before IX century and spread in Europe after the XV century.
The oldest remainings of apple, according to Herr, correspond to the most recent time of the Age of Stone, between 8000 and 2500 years before Christ; and in opinion of Engel, harvested forms of apple appear in the period of Hallstatt, corresponding to the first time of the Iron Age.
The Latins denominated the apple ”malum” and ”malum matianum” to a species of the same one dedicated to Macio, culinary, Agricultural treaty writer and friend of Caesar. Apicio, famous Roman gourmet of Tiberio´s time, offers diverse apple prescriptions in his peculiar work “De re coquinaria”. Anthimus, doctor of the VI century, affirms in his “Epistle of observatione ciborum” that “the apples and pears, just like other fruits, are only good for the human when they get mature under the sun”.
When arrived the apple to Asturias? There is no certain answer to this problem. We know that it was already harvested and appreciated like source of wealth in VIII century, according to the document dated on the 25th of November of year 781, subscribed by the Benito priests Fromestano, Maximum and its monks, founders of the Monastery of San Vicente of Oviedo. Another very interesting document is the testament of Fakilo, whose antiquity dates from the year 793 or 803, and that tells how the testator makes donation of the fifth part of his property in favour of the monastery of Santa Maria of Libardón (Colunga).
Apicius' De Re Coquinaria
Possibly the Arab culture very closed to Spanish history from the VIII century and showed in all its splendour up till the XIII century, had also a lot to do with the expansion of the culture of the apple tree in our region, being based mainly on the medicinal character of its fruits.
As of the XII century existed in Asturias the so called “rubblework pacts” or “manpostura”, legal formula that bound landowners and colonists, by which the owner of a plantation made a contract to another one, so that last one ploughed it and planted it with apple trees. This way, according to documents that are in the Files of San Pelayo of Oviedo, the nuns of San Bartholomew of Nava covered with apple treestheir extensive lands of Villaviciosa and Colunga.
The eighteenth century is the historical reference point for the extension of cider apple trees in Asturias. This was reflected in the writings of Francisco de Paula and Caveda and Tomás López, who in 1772 performed cartographic work, collecting data on major agricultural crops.
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, efforts were focused on crop improvement as a whole, from choosing appropriate soil, to the use of fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides, through improvements in the techniques of grafting and pruning.
With the start of the PDO Cider of Asturias, apple crops achieved an identity and added value, ensuring the future of an industry adapted to modern times.