It’s apple picking time…. which means apple pie season, my favourite time of the year. I don’t actually pick apples, (I’m lazy), but instead buy them from the farmer’s market which is supplied by a local orchard. Although on a nice fall weekend we might drive down river on a leaf tour to a place where you can pick your own but which also sells to customers from a small stand. They always have spy apples there, which are the best for cooking, despite what people say about all those new varieties. (I once had a grocery store clerk tell me you could make a pie with Macintosh, and I suppose you could if you wanted applesauce). Spy apples are always later in the season, but well worth the wait, their tart taste cancels out some of the sweetness of the sugar.
When this farmland was first settled everyone grew apples, and stored them in root cellars for cold storage. From my genealogy records, according to the 1860 agricultural census, they had to record how many acres of orchards they had, so it was an important crop, and a symbol of prosperity at the time. It was also their main source of vitamin C over the winter, and I wonder if the expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” came from it’s prevention of scurvy. Both the homeplace and my grandparent’s farm had the remnants of the original apple orchards from over a hundred years ago. My dad’s farm had mostly crab apple trees, and a few eating apples, but the trees were so old the fruit was basically inedible, although the blossoms did have a heavenly aroma in the spring. The orchard was right beside the house and during my teenage years pity the poor sibling who would have to cut the grass in the orchard with a push mower and run over all those hard little things, which made for a very bumpy experience. (A riding lawn mower was the best thing ever invented). My grandmother’s orchard had better tasting snow apples, and on Thanksgiving my younger brother and I would climb the fence and brave the field full of large but rather dumb cows to pick some, and also to gather chestnuts, which my brother used as fences for his farm animal set. My grandmother lived to be 96 and every year she went apple picking with my uncle to the orchards down river. Her old farmhouse had a little unheated vestibule beside the kitchen where she would store the apples in bushel baskets, so when you entered her house you would always get a lovely whiff of the smell of ripe apples. Someday soon my house will smell marvelous from the cinnamony scent of warm apple pie, in the meantime I’ll just have to light some apple scented candles.
Artist of the Day: Helen McNicoll (from time to time I may feature a new artist I have discovered, unless otherwise specified all the other paintings are by my mother).
Last month I went to a talk on the Group of Seven at our regional art gallery. The speaker showed a slide of a painting by Helen McNicoll, called The Apple Gatherer which was painted in 1911. She was a contemporary of the Group of Seven, but being female, not considered part of the group. I think I much prefer Helen’s painting, as it is full of colour and light. Maybe next spring I will plant an apple tree…
Quote of the Day: “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony, grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves.”
Song of the Day: I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing – by the New Seekers – click here for music link
Book of the Day: Apples to Oysters by Margaret Webb has a chapter devoted to apple orchards.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An interesting read about Canadian farmers, starting with apple growers and moving across the provinces…..oysters, cheese, vineyards, wheat etc. I found the stories fascinating and being from a rural background could relate to the appeal of the farming lifestyle, as well as the uncertainty of the farming business as most of the stories involved smaller generations-old family farms. If you ate today, thank a farmer!