By Elizabeth Brion

When you think, in a general sense, of fruit, what image comes to mind? A still life? A farmers' market? An orchard? The produce section at your supermarket? Probably not war, though. Or tanks. Or generals. I've done a lot of historical research over the last year or so, though, and guess what kept turning up? Wars. Tanks. Yep—even generals. See if you can guess which fruit is responsible for which colorful story.
  1. Apricot – Its mere presence is treacherous to military vehicles. It seems that in World War II, the Marines noticed that every time a tank broke down, Ration-C apricots were in the vicinity. You obviously don't want your military transport giving out on you, so a foolproof protection plan was put in place—to this day, you can neither possess nor mention apricots in or near an armored vehicle. I found a story of one WWII vet who flouted this rule and snacked on apricots constantly; other men refused to ride with him, considering him reckless. I consider him a genius; I imagine it's not easy to get any privacy when you're fighting a war.
  2. Cherry – Without this fruit, life simply isn't worth living. The Roman general Lucullus has gone down in history as a foodie as well as a military man. It's said that he spent the last decade of his life in madness and decadence, which is a robust environment in which to plant the legend that he committed suicide when he realized he was running out of cherries. I don't wish to downplay the obvious point here, which is that cherries are completely awesome, but do keep in mind that Roman generals were, as a group, much more gung-ho about suicide than we are today. This might have qualified as a wholly sensible reason.
  3. Rhubarb – Could the threat of its absence have prevented an entire war? Chinese Commissioner Lin Tse-Hsu, in his famous open letter to Queen Victoria regarding England's export of opium to China, contrasted England's addictive wares with China's wholesome ones with the dubious claim that the English could not survive a single day without tea and rhubarb. Unfortunately, it appears that the Queen never read his letter; had she been apprised of this threat to her people's existence, she certainly would have acted to avoid The First Opium War, avoiding many fatalities from both combat and (I assume) the rhubarb shortage that resulted.
  4. Watermelon – Makes an excellent weapon—and an excellent defense. Roman Governor Demosthenes was widely considered one of the greatest—if not the greatest—orators of his time. Indeed, you'd have to be pretty quick on your elocutionary feet to handle having a watermelon hurled at you during a political debate with such grace; Demosthenes placed the watermelon hull upon his head and thanked the thrower for giving him a helmet to wear into battle against Phillip II of Macedonia (a foe he seems to have regarded much as Snoopy did the Red Baron).