Thursday, October 17, 2013

Welcome back apples

Apples sprouted from every available space on the
branches of this backyard apple tree in Glidden.

A northland reunited with its fruit

I went through a stage in my earlier life when I slowly became allergic to several different fruits and vegetables. For a few years, I couldn't eat watermelon, cantaloupe, peas, carrots, bananas, or strawberries. All of the above made my throat swell and itch and it was all I could do to not have a panicked, choking sensation.

At that time, I learned to avoid eating those items, but as the list grew and grew I started to feel a bit desperate at losing all those foods I really enjoyed. Right around that time, apples also began to affect me, and I just about panicked at losing one of my most favorite fruits. After some experimentation though (dangerous as it may have been), I discovered peeling the apple before eating it spared me the itchy / scratchy / impending doom sensation.

Lucky for me, the allergy to these foods was something I eventually outgrew, and I can now eat all of them again (even though, on very rare occasions, a certain melon or carrot may still give me a hint of itchy-throat. If you can explain this phenomenon to me, please write).

Last year, though, I had to go through losing apples all over again. The early spring tempted our local flora out of hibernation very early on. It was wonderful to have buds sprouting and warm, sunny days in April, but it also proved to be quite costly to some early budding crops. One of those crops was our north midwestern yield of apples, and when a frost swept through the region, almost all of those apple flowers were burned away. The result was a very poor crop of apples last fall, and to me at least, it seemed like losing my favorite fruit all over again.

Honeycrisps were nowhere to be found. Cortlands and Fujis were in stock but from far away, higher priced, and of lower quality. The realm of tart, sweet, ultra-portable fruits was all but decimated, and there was nothing that could be done about it. We had to go without, make do, hope for a better harvest in 2013.

Well guess what, we got our apples back this year. Perhaps we missed out on another early spring, but that's alright. Since the orchards had very little strain on them last growing season, they were well rested coming into this year, and produced a banner yield of scrumptious, sweet-tart fruits in our communities.

Wisconsin and Michigan are reporting record breaking crops this apple season. The trees have used their year of rest wisely. Stores and markets are well stocked, and backyard orchards are feeding both their families and a deer population hard hit by last year's long winter.

Last week I spent time with family picking apples off trees so burdened by the weight of their bulbous fruit they were leaning lopsided. Many of the tree limbs were hanging almost to the ground, suspending fruit just above those that were windfall on the grass.

Bucket after bucket we filled with scrumptious red / green fruit. Apples that filled my hand, not skimpy little nuggets. I couldn't help but eat them as we went, sampling the sugary-sour meat under the thin, waxy apple flesh. Wiping the juice from my chin on my sleeve, a warm October sun on my shoulders, the smell of leaves and grass in my nose, the talk and laughter of loved ones in an orchard. Welcome back, apples, welcome back.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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