It starts with a little love and caring. One small apple seed, water, sun and time. A minimalist formula, but it covers the basics of pomology. Fortunately, this isn’t a column about growing apples, but rather, a story about how they nourish the soul.
You might expect a list of nutritional benefits to follow. It’s tempting for a dietitian, but admittedly, not the most stimulating, nor memorable information. A far more valuable lesson about apples resides in the stories that come from the experience of picking, preparing, sharing and eating them.
A productive year for local apple trees may provide you the opportunity to pick your own. You can almost hear a sigh of relief from the branches, sagging under the weight of the fruit, as you reach in for the one apple catching your eye. Watch your head! A slight tug and it’s raining apples. At first, you want to reach down and pick them all up. At least until you realize 100 more are on the ground. Not to worry, they’ll get a second chance. Pigs will feast and cider will ferment in the weeks to come.
Not quite as romantic, but selecting a firm apple at the grocery store can be just as rewarding. A relatively low-cost fruit, it stores well for days (or weeks in the fridge) and eating them is an act of self-care. Need I say more than “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”?
Like people, apple varieties have their own personality. Crisp, tart, sweet, spicy, herbaceous, tangy, hard, soft and juicy are a few of the ways to describe their uniqueness and, ultimately, their purpose. Of course, you can eat them all fresh, but some are better suited for the extreme temperatures of freezing and canning. For these, use apples with crisp, firm flesh such as Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Granny Smith and Jonathon.
To really bring out the magic of an apple, see what happens when you invite your child(ren) to make applesauce and caramel apples! Of course, the magic is not in the apple, but rather in the joy of being together as a family. Through conversation and experimentation, the kitchen is an ideal space for learning. Not just about food, but also one another.
What the young brain processes while dipping food, I’m not sure. Nevertheless, it fascinates them and making a caramel apple is no exception. One of these days, we’ll work on developing patience. Slowly simmering apples, stirred periodically as they transform into apple butter will be the introductory lesson.
For now, their attention span has run out. Leaving a trail of caramel sauce, they scamper from the kitchen.
Feeling my own patience for processing apples running thin, it’s time for one last lesson. Five bags are filled with apples glowing as red as the scrub oak in our yard. I call out to my kids asking them to get their wagon. They’ve been tasked with delivering apples to our neighbors. Three elderlies (as my kids call them) and two families, one with a new baby.
Naturally, the best way to deliver apples on a warm fall afternoon is in your Cleopatra costume, makeup and all. With a wagon full of apples, off they go.
Before long, one of the elderlies calls. His hearing isn’t what it used to be, and my daughter’s speech isn’t as clear as I hope it will be. This time, he isn’t calling for clarification. At 84, he’s filled with laughter and joy. After all, it’s not every day Cleopatra stops by to share a bag of apples. But maybe it should be.
Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.Nicole Clark