We bought a house last year, but somehow I never noticed the apple tree. It clings bravely to the edge of a hill not far from the road. Perhaps a late frost or some other tragedy stuck the apple tree last year leading to a dearth of apples. This year, however, provided the happy confluence of events necessary to produce an excellent crop of apples. Their skin is ugly and scarred, but the flesh is white and crisp and just the right combination of sweet and tart.
So here I am peeling and quartering a sink full of apples. I have been making pie filling to freeze, because who doesn’t love pie. There is a brief moment that I wish that I had learned how to can, but truthfully I have a unreasonable horror of canned fruit. I am a child of the frozen fruit and vegetable era only catching the tail end of the decades of canned food. Now we hardly even have too settle for frozen; everything can be found fresh–shipped in from locations on the opposite parallel of the world.
Apples have a long history and mythology–an intimacy with the stories of man. Apparently, the only apple that is native to the United States is the crab apple. I don’t think my tree is a crab apple, the apples are too big and too delicious compared to my childhood memories of the small, tart fruit.
When I was a kid, I read the tale of Johnny Appleseed. I am sure that it was a highly fictionalized account, but it caught my imagination and thrilled me with fantastic dreams of walking across the country planting things. I love to travel, but I have a black thumb when it comes to plants. So I guess I will not be following in Johnny Appleseed’s footsteps anytime soon.
Still, I like to think about those original seeds being planted and all of the apple orchards that have been lost over the years. I visited the town of Steheken once, at the end of Lake Chelan in Washington. It is a fascinating place, a town cut off from time and progress. The only way in is by ferry or a long hike over the Cascade Mountains. A few miles back from the lake was an abandoned apple orchard. The bears were appreciative of the bounty and had obviously been snacking on the fallen fruit. We picked a few apples and ate them there, looking up at the towering mountains around us, and all the while wondering about the original settlers.
Nothing had ever tasted so delicious, until today. I eat a crisp slice of my own lost and now found apple tree, and I wonder who planted it so many years ago.