SUBROSA
Number 46   January - February 2006
                 

A PERSONAL HISTORY OF APPLES

By Bill Jennings

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I like apples

Today we are very fortunate. We have a wide variety of apples to choose from in our markets. There are: Red Delicious apples, Golden Delicious apples, Fuji apples, Gala apples, Braeburn apples, McIntosh apples, Jonathan apples, Granny Smith apples (pies).

I found 59 varieties of apples in the Sunset Western Garden book. When I looked further in the Sunset book for crabapples, it said, “A small usually tart apple used for jelly and pickling.” It goes on to say, “to fruit well, a crabapple tree needs about 600 hours of temperatures at 45º F or lower.

As a boy growing up in Northern Minnesota, when the first winter chill was in the air, and the last of the gardens were harvested, our attention would turn to the crabapple trees.

We had three types of crabapples in Minnesota. One was called a Chinese crabapple that was extremely sour, and we did not bother to eat. Another was red sour apple about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. And, finally, there was a third yellow sweet apple about 3 inches in diameter. These trees were the most closely guarded.

Four or five boys in our gang would gather and decide who would climb the tree and shake the apples down. The rest of us would stand around under the tree and hurriedly fill our pockets and scurry away. Stealing apples was an annual tradition and an exciting game to us. There was the threat of some owner waiting for us with a shotgun loaded with rock salt. And, there were times we heard loud threats, and even got into some good chases, but at the end of the chases, these were the apples that tasted the best. We always carried a salt shaker for the real sour apples. Salt made them taste sweet.

Now that I am older I pine nostalgically for those fall days of crabapple season, and occasionally, see crabapples in the market. I am always tempted to purchase a few for that old time flavor and memories.

Today we go into the market and we have such a wide selection of apples, it almost takes the joy out of shopping. When I was a boy, fruit and vegetables were still seasonal.

When I look at all the apples, I wonder who it is that has the job of putting the little stickers on each apple. I also see that the apples are highly waxed for preservation. Besides washing apples thoroughly, I believe it is a good idea to peel an apple before eating it. I will wash an apple, peel it, and cut it into quarters. I always make sure that it is cold and crisp because, in my mind, that is the only way to enjoy a truly delicious way to eat an apple.

Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

 

Bill Jennings, Herb Garden Docent Co-Chair

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