Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Apple Harvest Is In!

I have a confession to make.  As readers of this blog may know by now, I enjoy the challenge and reward of cultivating older varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  That is why, when it came time to select two apple trees to plant in the garden, I did a most shocking and unexpected thing.  I opted to plant two Frankentrees.

You might find yourself asking "what in heavens is a Frankentree?"  Imagine, if you will, a tree that was created by Dr. Frankenstein.  It would be multi-limbed to be sure, and I'd wager that each of those limbs would also be harvested from a variety of sources, just the way the doctor built his own monster.  You see, dear reader, my duo of trees are a veritable orchard, each producing five distinct varieties of apple ranging in size from a small plum to a large orange, and colors spanning pale green to flaming amber.

Chronica Domus
 A bushel basket filled with a variety of apples harvested from a single tree last weekend
Photo: Chronica Domus


These Frankentrees were cultivated using a very old method of horticultural trickery known as grafting. Grafting is unlike modern genetically modified Frankencrops, which have of course been fiddled with to the point of introducing genes found in other species. Grafting is merely taking one branch of an apple tree, and fusing it to the rootstock of a different apple variety. The resulting fruit is all apple and not some Gravenstein/porcine hybrid. Despite the tendency for some to spread applesauce on their pork, I'd prefer not to have pork in my apple, thank you very much.

From memory, none of the varieties of apple produced by my trees are new.  I write "from memory" as I've been a rather lax and naughty horticultural chronicler.  I have inadvertently allowed the initial nursery labels, attached to each bough, to fade in the strong sunlight, obliterating the five apples' identity.  As a result, I am left clueless as to the types of apples I am growing and eating, which is the sort of trifling detail that keeps me awake at night. Of course, any assistance my dear readers could provide in their identification, and my enlightenment, would be most welcomed.

Earlier this year I wrote a post, here, highlighting the array of white blooms found within my spring garden. At the time, I included the following two photographs, showing what I hoped would become the future apple harvest.

Chronica Domus
White apple blossom unfurling on one of the two Frankentrees in my garden
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
A grouping of little white apple blossoms - notice how this blossom differs to the more blowsy ones in the preceding photograph
Photo: Chronica Domus


Six months later, with the succession of the seasons, and through the magic of photography, here are those blossoms.  They have transformed beautifully into this year's apple harvest. I photographed these juicy orbs a few weeks ago, when the fruits were weighing down their branches, and were almost ready for picking.

Chronica Domus
Tinted a rosy pink, this beautiful green variety is begging to be eaten
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
A small red-flecked variety good enough to have tempted Adam
Photo: Chronica Domus

It was with much pleasure this past Sunday, immersed in the long shadows of late summer's golden light, that my daughter and I sought out the old bushel baskets and excitedly gathered around the trees in hopes of harvesting as many of the apples as we could pick. Several of the fruits had fallen prey to the pecks of ravenous birds, while others had dropped to earth, ripening much earlier than the varieties we were able to yield on Sunday. 

Chronica Domus
The harvest is in!
Photo: Chronica Domus


Our efforts filled the trio of bushel baskets you see above. We were supremely gratified and humbled that Mother Nature had performed her duties admirably, especially during this most difficult year of drought.  We had gathered more than enough apples to keep us happy. Not only that, but we were certain the varied wildlife that treks through the garden nightly also feasted well.  Scattered about us were many half-eaten apples, which we imagined provided bountiful nocturnal feasting opportunities for the multitude of raccoon, skunks, and opossums. We derive much pleasure in the fact that a small portion of our fruit-growing efforts benefit our fellow creatures. It all feels rather balanced in a world that is often topsy-turvy when it comes to such matters.

Chronica Domus
Rose tinted apples in the dappled sunlight
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


\Chronica Domus 
Our bushel baskets ready to be taken into the house
Photo: Chronica Domus


Of course, what student wouldn't want to offer a fresh apple to a favored teacher, so come Monday morning, not only will I be packing my daughter off to school with an apple in her lunch box, but I will also include a few to share.

Chronica Domus
Four of the five varieties from our trees, yet to be identified by my loyal readers
Photo: Chronica Domus


Do you enjoy apples at this bountiful time of year, and what would you do with a spare bushel?

24 comments:

  1. That's fascinating and those apples look marvelous...I've always fantasized of living amongst apple orchards in the Pacific Northwest and love driving through Western Michigan this time year and seeing all the apple orchards ready for harvest. With you providing delicious sustenance to school teachers, skunks, raccoons, and possums (CD, we Americans don't have a class system when it comes to marsupials either...kindly drop that 'o' please!) don't be surprised if you find GSL darkening your door if there is an apple pie or 2 cooling on your window sill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I am so glad I don't live near an apple orchard as I'd be in danger of denuding the entire place of its fruit at harvest time. Yes, I do so enjoy making apple pies to the delight of my family who have grown rather accustomed to my less cloying British-inspired version (far less cinnamon too), at least as compared to what is on offer in the supermarket.

      Oh, and about that o, did you know that a Possum and an Opossum are in fact two distinct animals. I had no idea until your comment made me look it up (these little creatures are not native to England and I'd never seen one until I moved here). Australians enjoy a less ferocious looking animal than Americans as the pointy teeth are missing down under.

      Delete
  2. You are lucky in California to have many nurseries and growers specializing in antique fruit varieties. I have tracked down some rare kinds from the East, popular in the nineteenth century, that now seem to be only obtainable in your state.

    Apples are one fruit I really miss in Taiwan. Of course, you can buy them in the market, but they are not very good. I just got a couple of Fujis that taste exactly like water. I therefore am very envious of your fresh, select, and colorful apple crop.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree, we are certainly fortunate to live in a state that values heritage fruits and vegetables. This is particularly so in the San Francisco Bay Area where we benefit from the many farmers that sell their crops at the various farmers' markets, and the specialist nurseries located within an hour or two of the city.

      I am saddened to read of your disappointment in locating tasty apples. I love sweet juicy Fujis and I consider them to be one of the better eating apples. I wish I could send some your way.

      Delete
  3. Wow, that is so interesting. I had no idea such a tree existed. I love the idea of have more than one variety of apple on one tree. These look delicious. Do you store them in a refrigerator to keep them fresh for the few weeks you would use them in recipes/eat them?
    Beautiful.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen,

      Until I planted my Frankentrees, about fifteen years ago, I had no idea such trees existed. I had previously seen grafted walnut trees in the nut groves of central California, but was unaware the same grafting technique could be used on apple trees to such good effect. I would encourage anyone looking to plant an apple tree in a small garden to opt for such a tree, especially if land for a small orchard is not an option.

      We usually store our apples in the basement as it is much cooler down there, and replenish our fruit bowls in the kitchen as needed. As you live in southern California, keeping your apples in the refrigerator is probably best, especially as it is still rather hot in comparison to our cooler climes.

      Delete
  4. Hey there! I hope you had an enjoyable summer. It's amazing what is being done with grafting. Two of my favorite things to do with apples are apple butter and apple galette. Around here my favorite 'eating apple' is the Fuji.

    J.W.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello J.W.,

      I've never attempted to make apple butter, but I think I shall, thank you.

      As for Fuji apples, yes they are deliciously sweet and an excellent eating apple.

      Delete
  5. Dear Chronica,
    Apples are indeed a highlight of Fall. There is a new book out called Apples of Uncommon Character by self-described apple-geek, Rowan Jacobsen. In it, he describes just 122 of the heirloom apples varieties that have been rediscovered. Apparently, at one point there were several thousand. I also include a link to an NPR feature about little known apples you may enjoy.
    Happy Autumn!
    http://www.npr.org/2014/09/19/349626755/keeping-heirloom-apples-alive-is-like-a-chain-letter-over-many-centuries?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=food

    K.L. Gaylin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello K.L. Gaylin,

      Thank you for your enlightening comment on the new apple book, which sounds quite fascinating, and is a book that I am not familiar with.

      I am off to check out the link for the NPR story you so kindly included in your comment. It appears that apples are on everyone's mind with autumn upon us.

      I do hope you stop by again, thank you.

      Delete
  6. Dear CD,

    I can't assist with the identification of your gorgeous apples but, on the subject of grafting, I thought you might be interested in this:
    http://www.treeof40fruit.com/

    Spud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, I am all agog at the sight of this incredible and fantastical tree, thank you. Who would have guessed that grafting can be accomplished across multiple types of fruits. It boggles the mind.

      Delete
    2. This tree grafting is fascinating and like you I never would have thought you could do it with different species of fruits. I had never even heard of antique fruit until this post. I'll be researching further but assume this grafting must be done when the plant is quite young. CD, would love to hear more of how you went about this.

      Delete
    3. Dear GSL, I did not personally graft the various apple varieties to the rootstock. They were done by a supplier of apple trees to a very good nursery I visit down on the coast in Half Moon Bay. One of these days I shall get my act together and do a posting on the place.

      My Frankentrees were likely grafted when they were very young (less than 10 years old), as you've already deduced. The link below will further explain the process. It really is a fascinating bit of horticultural trickery, especially since learning from my reader Spud that it can also be done with a variety of fruits:

      http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/grafting-apple-trees.aspx#axzz3E5Mk4XFL

      Delete
  7. Oh my dear, your apple pie, cinnamon or not, must be out of this world. I am no expert baker but I do know that the best are made with at least two varieties of apples....and you have five! I bet you a simple apple sauce would be an interesting endeavor. With apples like these I wouldn't gild the lily and stick to the basics, the better to enjoy the cornucopia of flavors.

    I have been enlightened by your post on grafting and the Frankentree.and I am so happy you enjoy growing and writing about these older varieties. When I go to the supermarket at this time of the year, I am befuddled by all the varieties of apples they have on the shelves. and find myself cross referencing them with that flip book they have on hand. It's the only way to decipher what to use in a particular recipe.although more often than not I end up with the old favorites. I wish I could help you identify them but I am just a cook. The big green one looks like Granny Smith and the red and green to its left Macintosh. Below that gala or rome. the next no idea. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet you whoever grafted this tree was very careful in his or her selection of varieties to complement each other so you have a gold mine. Some get mushy when you cook them thus they are better for just eating. You once asked me about chutney. Here's an apple chutney using Granny Smith's, the best variety for cooking...that much I know!

      http://lindaraxa.blogspot.com/2010/10/roast-pork-tenderloin-with-apple.html

      Delete
    2. Hello Lindaraxa,

      You are spoilt for choice where you shop if you have an entire flip chart dedicated to the identification of apples from which to make your selections. I've never seen anything like that around here! The best place to buy apples, at least in terms of variety and fruits that actually look like real apples (not perfectly spherical and shiny), is the farmers' market.

      Thank you for having a stab at identifying my mystery apples. The large green one is not tart enough to be a Granny Smith, which is actually my preferred cooking apple for pies. The Brits use Bramley apples (not available in the US), which are extremely tart and will make your mouth pucker if you try them raw, which I do not recommend. The apple you thought was a Gala is too squat in shape I think, and the Macintosh looking apple is too small. Back to square one! All my apples are tasty and juicy so when making pies, I really do cut down on the sugar to compensate.

      Delete
    3. As to your second comment, I agree, Granny Smith apples are the best cooking variety I've tasted - yum! Now, I really must get on and attempt the chutney recipe you've shared with me, thank you.

      Delete
    4. I guess I won't get an apple for my answers...just a big fat F! lol

      Delete
    5. Would that be F for Fall Pippin, Feltham Beauty, Fireside, Foxwhelp, Freyberg or Fuji?

      Delete
  8. Your apple orchard and harvest looks amazing. I love the old fashioned wooden apple barrels. DLC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Lord Cowell. As I stated in my posting, the two Frankentrees afford us an orchard's worth of fruit. They really are quite prolific little fruit factories. As for the bushel baskets, again, thank you. I love to use them when we pick our fruit as my English trug is a lot shallower and apples and pears tend to escape with ease.

      Delete
  9. I'm a bit late with this comment but I do love apples and I think a good apple pie the best dessert that can be. If you asked me if I missed fruit from England – and you have not – it would be the Russet apple and the Greengage plum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is never too late to join in Blue, and it is always a pleasure when you stop by and add to the conversation, thank you.

      I had forgotten about Russet apples entirely until you mentioned them. I miss those sharp and perfect Bramley apples, the best for making apple pies.

      Oh, yes, Greengage plums, I'd forgotten about those too. I've had them once since I moved to California, a gift from my husband's uncle who had picked them from his tree. They were so beautiful, and tasty, I even took a photograph of them as it had been many years since last catching sight of one.

      Delete

Please do leave a comment as I enjoy the dialogue with my readership, thank you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...