Old trees keep giving, if we dare to receive
Apple trees line the back roads that wind through the hills of my rural New England town. These are old trees. No sprays or fertilizers or pruning help them along, and the fruit they produce is just what it is. Gnarled, scabby and wormy, these apples bear no resemblance to the unblemished supermarket specimens that fill bag after plastic bag in identical perfection.
I love these old varieties. Even their names move me: Ashmead’s Kernal, Spartan, Pippins, Roxbury Russet, Winesap, Gravenstein— you won’t find many of these alongside the ubiquitous Red Delicious. Each had a place in an early homestead. Some were excellent keepers; others better for cider. Some ripened early while others hung on the branch until after a late frost.
The flavors of old apples are complicated. You have to think about what you’re eating. Is that a hint of cinnamon, maybe? That other is so tart it makes your mouth pucker, but what a fabulous addition to cider. Even the same variety from place to place and year to year is subtly different.
If I can find an owner I’ll ask permission before I pick but often only a hint of house remains.… Read the rest