The Real Reason Apples Float

If you've ever seen "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" you may remember the scene where Lucy Van Pelt is bobbing for apples, only to find she's sharing an apple with the World War I Flying Ace — better known as Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy (via YouTube). While it's a classic scene in the special, have you ever wondered just what exactly apple bobbing is and why it works with apples?

Apple bobbing is a game in which a tub or bucket is filled with water and then filled with apples. Players must pick up one of the fruit with only their mouths. According to HISTORY, the game was a courting ritual in England a few centuries or so ago. If a girl caught an apple assigned to a certain young man on her first try, then that meant the two would have a blossoming romance. The game would become a Halloween ritual after the Celtic holiday of Samhain became mainstream Halloween, with bobbing for apples being incorporated into the holiday since it was a Celtic tradition (via Reader's Digest). What was once a way to test someone's love now became a kid's game played after eating buckets of candy.

But why apples in the first place? Strawberries, for example, were seen as symbols of love and fertility in ancient times (via Grasmick Produce), so why not bob for strawberries as part of this elaborate dating game? The answer may be due to the apple's ability to float.

Apples are filled with air

That Gala apple you just had for a snack earlier may have been sweet and juicy, but you may not have known that you've just consumed a bunch of air. According to Parlee Farms, your average apple is about 25% air in volume, while Healthline reports that the rest of the apple is mostly water. It is thanks to this high percentage of air that apples can float, as it makes them less dense than the water they are put in.

As FineCooking explains, the air in your apple not only helps it float but also provides that satisfying crunch and rich taste you get when you bite into one for the first time. All that air is located between the cells of the apple, like a giant vacuum. As the apple ripens, the cells fill with juice and expand in this empty vacuum of air, meaning there are now more cells than there is air. When you bite into a fresh apple, those inflated cells break and the air is released, giving you that signature crunch and the aroma of the apple while you eat. 

While apples that are filled with air may not be the best for cooking, you can find the best type of apple for baking that's perfect not just for bobbing, but also for cooking amazing apple dishes.