Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Des Pommes

Always in search of the odd apple, something other than what seems to be a universal-grocery-store inventory of Galas, Granny Smiths and (the powerfully-misnamed) Delicious; and discovering that Pink Lady has joined the ranks of ubiquitous boredom, I purchased a bag of tiny and irregular apples at the Saturday Market last week from my neighbor-up-the-lane Lilly, who told me that she didn't know the variety, only that they were from Very Old Trees. Thus, I've named the best apples I've tasted since I was a waif in the wilds of Renton the Very Old Trees variety. Thank-you, Lilly!

I'm going to get all nostalgic here, as I tend to do when apples are involved. My father, who toiled daily at the airplane plant (which would be Boeing), spent his free hours tending our dozen fruit trees, his sprawling vegetable garden, his chickens and rabbits. Raised a city boy near Boston, he indulged his fantasy of going west, and went as far as he could in the continental America post WWII, my reluctant mother lagging behind with two toddlers and diapers (a 24-hour plane ride), never quite accepting that she ended up raising seven children so far from her hometown of Providence, and many years of that a widow.

But the apple trees: only four of them, semi-dwarf, but they were my universe as a child. I sat company with dolls when my father did his dormant pruning, bundled against the damp, my dolls swaddled up to their vinyl necks. Blossom-time was the annual beginning of the alchemy, the transformation of delicate pink flowers to robust ruby fruit, fist-sized, which spilled from wooden crates we stored in the garage all winter. Many a dark January evening I hunkered over the kitchen table, aswamp with homework, consuming apple after apple. I'm not sure I recall their varietal names -- some were just called Pie Apples. Other maybe Jonathan, and Rome.

They're long gone, of course, given way to sub-divisions and paved driveways. But every fall I seek them out, and sometimes, like last Saturday, I get lucky.


  1. I love the drowned boat pic!

    My parents last home in Shropshire had an orchard that contained 44 fruit trees; mostly apples. Each was labeled with an ancient lead strip, into which had been pressed the variety of the apple (most names did not appear in any book). When I sold the property, after both my parents had died, the new owner simply bulldozed the whole orchard, and all those ancient varieties were lost forever. Needless to say, I feel as you do about old apple trees!

  2. "Honey Crisp"--tasted it a few days ago. Delicious, and I don't mean "red delicious," those mealy apples.

    I'm with you about seeking apples! Thank you.

  3. Cro -- sadness! 44 trees....

    Mim, yes, Honey Crisp is definitely worth mentioning, but damn it's $$.

  4. In my boyhood farm orchard there were 20 odd apple trees and two large pear trees. My bliss was Irish Peach, a very early apple to ripen. Three or four picked straight off the tree, lying on the verandah with a good book in the late summer sunshine was really bliss. Thanks for leading me down nostalgia lane.

  5. harvey -- delighted to lead you there, delighted that you have lead me down your own "Irish Peach" memory lane. Apples seem to be a particularly potent memory trigger. (I write this with the scent of Very Old Trees in the air....)