All of our modern apple varieties (Malus domestica) come from a wild tree called Malus sieversii. Whole forests of these trees grew in the western foot hills of the Tien Shan mountains, around what is now Kazakhstan. These early apple trees were very diverse, but it seems that many of them had large sweet fruit which were especially attractive to bears who ate them and spread their seeds around. Some of these sweet apples were carried by people along the ancient Silk Road – a trade route linking China with the West from over 2000 years ago up until the 1450s.
The seeds of apples don’t breed true – but out of all the different trees that resulted from wild seedlings the Greeks and Romans learned how to clone the best by grafting them onto other rootstocks. The Romans brought some of their favourites to Britain.