Apple Blossom Dreams
Last night I had a garden variety of nightmare. I’d lost something so rare and valuable out in my garden, that I am afraid it’s gone forever. It all started when visions of spring time apple blossoms disappeared.
Suddenly, i was on a mission in pursuit of the thieves that stole my treasure. so this morning i wake up, and remember that this nightmare is very real.
The pursuit has been relentless and it’s lasted for years, each elusive trail always seems to leads to a dead-end. Where will we will find the missing Bloody Turk, a Sheep’s Nose, and a White Norman? More importantly, who else has been lost from our gardens?
The Apples Of My Dreams
The losses in the land of the King of Fruits is staggering. Here in America, we’ve lost over sixty-eight thousand of them, in a mere one hundred years. It’s not just the Bloody Turk, Sheep’s Nose, and White Norman — the problem is far bigger than that — just how many will Americans will remember Goddard, Greasey Pipin, Court Royal, Kingston Black, Eggleton Styre, Breakwell’s Seeling, or old Tom Putt? Then, there’s the Goose Turd, Coccagee, over in Ireland, who it’s said went the way of Black Gilliflower. Will you know who you missed, or even why they went away? Have they disappeared forever?
At The “Core” Of The Mystery
In my family, the solving of the mystery of these disappearances would have begun under my little brother’s bed. Nancy Drew wouldn’t have thought it, but mom knew that the “core” of this mystery, was in the evidence found under a boy’s bed.
As a boy, he was no Johnny Appleseed, so his apple cores went under the bed. Today, an avid gardener extraordinaire, I’m sure he saves seeds of all kinds.
I am, of course, talking about the mystery of why we allowed 6,800 varieties of apples once found in the United States, to dwindle down to less than 300 known varieties today. Some of the missing pieces of the apple variety puzzle, are hidden away on lone trees in woods, or private orchards and properties, waiting for someone to rescue them from eventual extinction.
Once household names, the Bloody Turk, Sheep’s Nose, White Norman, and all the others — have fallen out-of-fashion and disappeared from our orchards, grocery shelves, and common knowledge. It wasn’t that long ago that it was boasted that every household in states like Oregon, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, and Idaho — had at least one apple tree on their property. (A similar fact could also be made about orange trees in the backyards of Floridians and Californians). Today, of course, that is sadly, no longer the case.
There once was a bushel of apples grown every year for each man, woman, and child in America. The Department of Agriculture back in the 1930s, began their discussions of “why an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” in government publications — by telling the public that apples are a food necessity — not a luxury — and that they should be eaten freely, especially in Winter and Spring.
Apple Miracle Trees
In the apple orchard, and even on the grocery shelf, what the average apple buyer doesn’t usually know, is that apples are a miracle tree. I say that because all of the apples grown on a tree, will be as different from each other, as our own finger prints differ from the person next to us.
Apples will still be apples, some characteristics will even make them look alike enough that our brain says “apple” — but when you bite into them, you will know the difference.
The reason for this, is that apple trees grown from the seeds of a single apple tree, will all produce different kinds of apple trees. In order to produce apples that are alike, man must graft a shoot from the parent tree onto another apple root. An orchard of one hundred trees could contain as many as twenty to forty different varieties of apples in early orchards. Back then the selection of the varieties was pretty much up to the tastes of the planter, or the varieties available in seed catalogues.
Surprisingly, the best apples come from apple trees that grew simply because someone threw away an apple core. In low valleys the production is greater (more apples), the color of the apples are brighter, and the size of the apples are much larger — than that of the same varieties grown without irrigation on flat lands or along foot hills. Non-irrigated apples will lack color and size, yet will keep better than the prettier and larger apples.
The Case of the Sheep’s Nose
When talking to old timers, especially old men with an ag background, they often bring up fond memories of Sheep’s Nose apples.
To hear them wax apple poetic, it’s apparent that this variety of apple must have been delicious, as they speak fondly of this apple.
It’s right up there with culinary dreams of mom’s apple pie in terms of remembrance.
It hasn’t escaped my curious mind, that often tales of Sheep’s Nose apples, go hand-in-hand, with the sweet pursuit of this apple, in the accompanying memories of sneaking into someone else’s orchard to steal them.
Wanted! Apple Detectives
“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.” — Bernard Baruch
So, if millions saw the apple fall, but it took Newton to ask why — then here’s my why? On social bookmarking sites, we tag each other. Some people tag buildings and other structures. We tag our articles and other ramblings. So why aren’t more of us, seeking out the old apple trees and having them tagged (identified and propagated)?
In the current last sprint to save missing apple varieties world-wide, the hour glass has almost run out. Those who still know the original names of some apple trees and their stories, are dead, dying, or so elderly their memories are sketchy.
Many of these old varieties are disease and insect resistant and their biodiversity is vital. Meanwhile, without identification, more and more old apple trees are dying off, or being bull-dozed. Old varieties need to be located. Think about how they are a part of our history — they need to be rediscovered and preserved, before they are lost completely.
Don’t leave this important job up to gardening groups and international seed saver monopolies with good intentions that could go broke — this is something everyone who can, should be doing in your own community.
There’s a mystical-like joy and a kinship connection in being fully present and in touch, with the food locally grown and eaten. My grandmother used to talk to her plants, as many people do — which reminds me of something an elderly neighbor once told me:
“My native American ancestors had special songs, stories, and chants to help the corn grow. This helped us to remember how to care for the corn and to save the seeds before it was too late.”
Port Apple Wine
This old world recipe is good for about a gallon of wine. We have over one hundred apple recipes that were handed down to my daughter, by her paternal great-great grandmother, Margaret Ann Todd.
These came by the way of daily diaries that she kept for over seventy years, that began in 1858, She recorded every detail of her farming family life in Louisiana, Missouri, right down to how many eggs a particular hen laid. Therefore, it’s no surprise that her recipes also were included in some of these tattered books.
- 8 pounds of apples (about)
- 7 pints of water
- 4 pounds of sugar
- All purpose wine yeast or baker’s yeast
Before the specific instructions, it’s important to know a few things about apple wines. Apples are one of the fruits, that when made into wine or cider, the pectin stays in your wine and holds onto particles of solids, which can give your wine a permanent unwanted cloudiness (impossible to filter out).
Because of this, you need to use sodium metabisulphiting. The apple needs to be crushed and fermented for five days only before straining. Also, remember, never ever boil apples in your wine making endeavors, as this releases the pectin.
The general wine making method preferred for this recipe, can be found in a previous hub that I wrote in the instructions for Vintage French Wine Recipes of New Orleans, down in the body of that hub. Then:
- When the apple wine is finished fermenting “rack” it into a sterile jug
- Note: The original recipe called for adding Clairjus No. 3, which as far as I know can’t be found anymore. Use Bentonite per package instructions for clarification of apple wine.
- Stir in well into wine.
- Fill jugs up to top so that no air is in the jugs and fit on fermentation lock
- When wine is clear “rack” into another sterilized bottle leaving all sediment behind
- Siphon wine into bottles and cap
- Remember that air temperature does affect wine making.
Lazy Woman’s Apple Wine
An enjoyable and easy wine to make is known as the “Lazy Woman’s Apple Wine.” As near as I can tell, this recipe was first made in the 1940s, when women were more apt to look for grocery store short cuts.
The wine is made by first running apples through an apple press, or simply buying apple juice or cider at the supermarket. It produces about a gallon of apple wine or hard cider.
- 2 quarts of apple juice
- 7 pints of water 2 1/4 pounds of sugar
- All purpose wine yeast or bakers yeast (yeast will speed fermentation).
- Make wine as usual.
- Ferment the juice diluted and put it directly into a large jug with a fermentation lock.
- The amount can be doubled by twice the water and increasing the amount of sugar accordingly.
Whole apples need to be kept at the same temperature. However, only cool them only down to freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). If you are lucky enough to have a cellar or unheated/cold basement they can be kept quite easily on shelves or closets.
- Otherwise the fruit storage drawer of your refrigerator will keep apples for quite a while.
- Apples shouldn’t really be stored in garages, simply because they tend to be drafty and the temperature doesn’t stay as constant as a basement or cellar.
- Apples should be wrapped individually and loosely, in either thin paper or newspapers so that they do not touch each other. The old adage about “one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch,” has great truth in it.
- Another consideration in apple storage, is to remember that apples ripen rapidly (about eight times faster) at room temperature vs. refrigerated or cold stored.
Apple Seed Jewelry
During the Victorian era and into the 1940s, it was a popular hobby for women to make apple seed necklaces. I regret having lost an intricately beaded such necklace from the 1890s that I once owned.
This very long necklace probably had thousands of apple seeds woven into it. What fascinated me, was the thought of how many apples it took, just to make one necklace, and what patience it must have also taken to work with these small seeds.
Scouring the Internet, while I find references to apple seed jewelry, but no real how to’s. I only found one jewelry artist, marketing apple seed jewelry, and while very nice — does not compare to ones I used to see in the jewelry boxes of elderly women
- The Jonathan is the most perishable apple.
- Apples play an active and important part in the elimination of poisonous materials taken into our bodies.
- Apples originated in southwestern Asia, in the area from the Caspian to the Black Sea.
- Originally, there were no native apples on the North American continent.
- The English colonists in Virginia brought the apple with them.
- The Dutch colonists in New York brought the apple with them.
- The French colonists in Canada brought the apple with them.
- Apples trees moved West faster than the immigrants.
- Native Americans gathered the seeds and had apple orchards around many Indian villages in the West, long before any white settlers reached the villages.
- John Chapman was a missionary, but he is better known as Johnny Appleseed. He travelled all over Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana early in the 19th century, preaching and planting apple seeds wherever he went.
“As current guardians of the planet, don’t let another old apple variety die off during your watch.”