apples

Just dessert

 

Dessert for breakfast isn’t a novel concept. Pancakes and waffles cornered that market ages ago. Jam and honey follow in lockstep.

Recently my neighbor Liz (also photographer and goat whisperer) dropped off a condiment that earns the top seed among morning toast spreads.

Apple pie in a jar.

 

Actually, Liz calls it jam” which sounds more breakfast-appropriate. But it is, simply, apple pie minus the crust.

This morning I popped open the lid and slathered the sugary apple slop on a toasted English muffin (already girded with several pats of butter).

Contents include craisins and Cameo apples.

 

It was cloyingly sweet, apple-filling bliss.

The cornerstone of any healthy breakfast.

(Note: Thick apple layer applied purely for photographic purposes. Oh, the sacrifices…)

 

Bad Apples

In 2009 Martin and I carefully selected certain species of apples trees that would thrive in our soil. Then we nurtured our saplings. We watered, weeded and sprayed them. Warded off pests. We treated them with love. Like our kids.

Yea, right.

Enough fiction. We plugged the plants into the ground and cordoned them off with a roll of sagging chicken wire — a vague effort to stagger the deer. Then we left the apple trees alone to cope. To wilt despairingly in summer drought, and serve as snacks for insects and deer — the latter of whom deftly bent over the chicken wire.

Through it all the apple trees survived and this summer we glimpsed at bits of red weighing down the limp young branches.

Last week Brynn and I ventured into the sheep field, pried back a corner of wire and harvested the crop.

And all of our efforts were rewarded with…

….the ugliest apples to ever sprout from a tree.

They are blighted, spotted from insect infestation and pocked with peculiar, human-like warts. Not to mention, they are stunted and hopelessly deformed.

“They look like a bunch of butts,” our friend Mike remarked.

Which is why we call them the “butt apples.”

What a lovely centerpiece…

Much to my surprise, no one wanted to sample these home-grown, organic gems.

I felt obligated. And guess what?

They taste great! They are sweet and crunchy — as good as any store-bought fuji…

…if you can get past the deformed, warty, insect damage.

See? Yum… and I’m still alive.

Coincidentally, shortly after we harvested our fruit, Hadley showed me her homework assignment which read as follows:

Send one apple with your child….their favorite type to eat…in a bag labeled with their name. We will be tasting different varieties as well as graphing them in different ways.”

I’m tempted to send Hadley to school with a butt apple; I imagine the teacher’s horrified expression as she fishes one of these beauties from the bag.

But I will spare Hadley the embarrassment.

I’ve got plenty of other opportunities to humiliate her in the future.

Fruit Census

Martin and I care for kids and fruit trees in much the same fashion:

We get them started, monitor them for a few weeks, and then leave them to fend for themselves.

We subscribe to a hands-off approach.

We planted apple trees in April ’09 and since then, I’ve probably checked them three times. Maybe that’s why they haven’t been fruitful. Wicked weather and wildlife haven’t helped, either.

In their first full year, summer of 2010, they were stunted by droughty weather. (We planted them beyond the reaches of our longest garden hose.)

And in 2011 Martin pulled down their protective chicken wire to mow the high grass. Apparently that signaled every deer in 10 miles; they chewed off any shred of green. What they left were knobby, naked branches.

This year is different. Most days I roar up the driveway, spitting gravel and raising a cloudy plume that mars a view of the orchard. But the other day I was nearly out of gas so I crept along, telling the car to sip fuel. And while I was killing time at this glacial pace, I glanced out the window. Was that a glint of red in those trees? That night I ventured out. Yes, them’s apples growing.

We should prune the trees and spray against insects but let’s be real: those apples are on their own.

The berries and grapevines grow by the barn and a convenient water source, so we treat them better than the trees banished in the sheep field.

In 2011 the black raspberries shriveled in a stretch of hot, dry days but this year, they’re flourishing. Darkening up and soon ready to pick.

The blueberries would be doing well, except the damn kids keep picking them before they’re ripe. “We like them tart!” they say.

The raspberries did wonderfully last year — they earn the drought-tolerant award — but this season they’re struggling. Perhaps it’s too much rain, or else they’re suffering from fallout from the grapevine spray. We’ve been at war against blackrot — it claimed the grapes two years in a row. As a result, Martin’s been dousing the vines and it’s possible that the neighboring raspberries got caught in the crossfire.

There’s only one other plant to acknowledge and that’s our teacher’s pet: the strawberries. They’re the newest addition and so far they’re impervious to wacky weather, neglect and constant trampling of kids and cats. Gold star for you guys.

I see hand-churned ice cream in the future….