There are some things you never outgrow, loves that are with you from childhood. Anything from Star Wars action figures to a warm ocean breeze. One of my life long loves has been apples.
I grew up in Chester County, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia, the mushroom capital of Pennsylvania. As well as being one of the wealthiest counties on the east side, down the mainline to Philadelphia, it also boasts nearly 170,000 acres of agriculture and farmland. We lived next to an expansive orchard that grew peaches, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, corn, all varieties of squash and several types of apples.
We would spend summers and fall traipsing and playing throughout the orchard and surrounding forest area. There was no Playstations, no Xbox, no one went to the mall unless your parents dragged you, we spent every moment of sun during summer vacation in and around Highland Orchards, building forts, riding bikes and playing baseball. When we were done or taking a break before moving onto something else, we’d hit up the orchard for whatever was available, this all depended upon how far west we had wandered.
As a kid, I was raised on applesauce, when I could chew, it was apples from the grocery store. Usually mom brought home the red delicious, and as much as I loved those apples, it was nothing compared to the first mutsu apple I pulled off a tree during one of those excursions. It was huge, a bright pale green-yellow skin. It was warm but crunched like potato chips, was sweeter than it was tart, poured juice down my chin, and ruined me to store bought apples forever. I can still remember how big that apple looked in my 11 year old hand.
We have an apple tree in the backyard of our house, I’ve never payed much attention to it, I’ve only just recently discovered that it might be lady apples it produces. This year has given us a warm fall for Colorado. It’s still in the 70’s in the first week of November, not really odd for Colorado, but not quite the norm. This little tree has exploded this year with beautiful red and golden streaked fruit. Sweeter than it has been any other year, also much larger. We took a warm Saturday afternoon and began collecting apples from our tree.
We’ve harvested maybe half the tree, hope to get the rest this week, before it cools down too fast. So far we’ve already made applesauce, a spiffed up version with star anise and white wine. This morning we had apple pancakes for breakfast. I’m trying to figure out if I have a means for pressing a cider with what remains on the tree. Worst case is a 24 inch buerre mixer, a bucket and a box of cheesecloth.
I’ve never had a green thumb. I plant herbs every year, I buy tomato pots, citrus trees, pepper plants and it’s usually only a matter of weeks before I’m throwing them out or starting over. But that tree in the back yard made all these beautiful little apples with nary so much as a word of encouragement from me, I wonder what it could do if I paid a little more attention. Then again, I wonder what I might do to it if I paid a little more attention.