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I had meant to do something else for my first blog post but this observation was too funny to pass up.

So, in my seminar someone offhandedly referred to the fruit of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (loquacious, innit?) as an apple, as is the popular conception. Of course, nowhere in the text does it state that it is an apple, so where does this stem from? Obviously the apple is (at least in Western Culture) the quintessential fruit, and one most associated with intellectualism and thus the transgression that implies (Newton’s apple, teacher’s apple, apple a day keep the doctor away). But later that day, while I was eating potato chips at the bus stop (I’m that guy, yes) I noticed that the French referred to it as pomme de terre, fruit/apple of the earth.

In Hebrew the fruit is referred to as Ha’adamah, fruit of the earth. Given that French is a Romantic language and early Christian translations of the Bible were in latin, it’s easy to see where the conception of it being an apple comes from.

Except that pomme de terre also means potato.

The forbidden fruit, with all the eroticism, transgression, and liberation that it implies for humanity, that which caused The Fall and our expulsion from Paradise, Original Sin, was a potato.

A potato.

Just picture it, a nude rosy cheeked Eve in the hue of youth, flush with the overwhelming discovery of knowledge and of her own latent sexuality, with the tempting serpent coiled round her shoulder in an insidious seduction, voluptuously, sensually, taking a bite out of a potato, before passing it on to Adam.

But if potatoes confer knowledge of good and evil, what is the fruit of The Tree of Life?




  1. It’s a funny image. Isn’t it dangerous to eat raw potatoes? More seriously, though, it’s interesting to track the biographies of plant species mentioned in–or taken to be typical of–the writing of particular places and moments. For example, Alan Bewell has argued that John Keats’s “To Autumn,” in which autumn “conspir[es]” with the sun “to bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,” is fraught with a huge collection of specifically (and strategically deployed) English nature imagery. Does it change anything that the apple tree originated in the Indian subcontinent?

    Here is a popular scientific biography of the potato, plus some more rigorously scholarly links to further reading:

  2. The potato is one of the most important vegetables we have so it would be fitting if the fruit was a potato, and the Bible isn’t too scientific with it’s usage of the word ‘tree’ either (shrubs, bushes, etc. can all be trees).

    I think a more likely explanation for the apple image may stem from the word ‘paradise’, which has its origins in Middle Eastern/Iranian/Persian languages. The Hebrew word ‘pardes’, generally meaning orchard, comes from the same source and Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible used ‘parádeisos’ to translate both ‘pardes’ and ‘gan’ (Garden).

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