As you recall, we each got to choose the thing we wanted most to do while we were at the cabin. I took my solo hike that I shared with you yesterday while Pete took the kids to the lake (Sage's pick), Pete did some fishing before dinner. Lupine's turn was next.
Her choice was foraging apples.
I was glad.
It was the main reason she wanted to go up north. To pick wild apples. So we woke early on Sunday while the boys were still asleep and with whispered voices shared breakfast and tea. She wrote (and drew) a note letting them know where we were headed, then we set off before they awoke.
We have a favorite wild "orchard" (a string of feral trees along a country road) where we pick each year. I have picked from some of these same trees since I was a child helping my grandpa fill 5 gallon buckets into the back of his pickup truck. He used them for baiting deer. (Sometimes I wonder if my grandma swiped a few for making sauce. I bet she did.)
I was small and nimble, so he would send me up into the branches to toss down the hanging fruit.
But grandpa was not discriminating. Apples were apples. (They were for the deer, after all.) Lupine and I? We taste, evaluate, and discuss the merits of each tree.
Some wild apples are sharp, tainnic and sour. Others are soft and sweet and juicy. And others aren't even fit for the deer.
We taste, make dramatic faces, then toss the samples over our shoulders and either march on or fill our baskets.
Some sample are so delicious we can't bear to toss them and nibble away on them as we walk between the trees.
Lupine is small and nimble and she clambers up into the branches without being asked. We laugh as apples fall and conk us on the head on occasion, and she tossed down fruit after fruit.
40 or 50 pounds of free apples later we were ready for home.
I shouldered the heavy bags and we set off.
We haven't been to the cabin in more than a year, so when we passed by a neighbor having coffee on his porch, I assumed he wouldn't recognize me.
I was lugging three heavy bags and a basket of apples down a dead-end country road and didn't want to cause him worry. So I called out, "I'd offer you some apples but I know you don't care for the wild ones!"
He laughed. "Oh! That's you! The one who picks the wild apples every year. Nope, don't like the worms."
We paused to chat, then continued home with our harvest.
And it's true. He doesn't eat them, desipte their abundance on his road.
Not in sauce or pies or fresh off the tree. And that's okay with me! We can't all love the same things, can we? That wouldn't be much fun.
Yet each year as we pick these trees I see cars rumbling by and I wonder, "Are they off to buy apples at the grocery store?" Apples shipped from New Zealand or California or Chile. Apples with no spirit or story. Apples where each tastes the same as the last, a predictable red delicious or granny smith – no surprises, no dramatic faces needed on account of their predictable mediocrity.
Not wild apples. They are always unpredictable. I admire that about them. Full of surprises – either unbearably awful or surprising in their complexity.
Wild apples, of course, aren't known for their long storage. So we sorted out the tastiest fruit to eat for snacks, but the rest we'll slice and freeze for winter pies and crisps and - for the bulk of the fruit – transform into applesauce tomorrow.
Because a pantry full of 40 pints or so of free sauce, made from apples that we wrapped in laughter as we tossed them into the bag? That's my kind of treat.
You can find my applesauce recipe here.