Archive for 'apples'

Fruiting Forward

wild plums cold morning1 Fruiting Forward

We went for wild plums in the cold, misty morning, gathering them with fingers freezing and lethargic, my feet squishing in icy, wet boots. It was worth enduring the thorny thicket, the musky scent of catnip tall around us, to come home with 20 lbs or so of plums, without making a dent in the patch.

wild plums Denver Fruiting Forward

The wild plum season wasn’t good last year, but this year the plums are going off. Elevation estimate 6,000 feet, North Denver/Front Range adjacent. I have a good friend to lead me to such bounty.

Speaking of which, have you tried her Old Farmhouse Plum Ketchup? Click on through for that recipe, and lots of good info on “ditch plums,” as she likes to call them.

perfect apple Fruiting Forward

In the midst of the thorny plum thicket there were apple trees too, many different varieties so loaded with perfect, plump apples that the branches near touched the ground, the fruits of a long-forgotten orchard overrun by the urban jungle. There were plenty on the ground ready for eating, no need to bother the tree just yet, my friend insisted.

abandoned orchard apples ground horiz Fruiting Forward

And then … can you say pears? Consider yourself lucky to find a tree dropping its fruit. There’s no need to let the pears rot on the ground either. Even the ones with bruises and holes can be quickly cleaned with a knife and dropped into a simple, equal parts sugar-and-water syrup, then refrigerated or counter-fermented, she taught me. We ate days-old zingy pears with a spoon, and poured slightly fermented pear liquid into sparkling seltzer and drank our pear sodas like queens.

pear haul park Denver Fruiting Forward

Later, back at home, I made a baked fruit crumble with mixed plums—not just the wild ones, but also some cultivated, powder-blue Italian plums her friend John invited us to harvest. “Pick the hell out of them,” he said, so we climbed deep into the weedy thicket to get at the difficult-to-reach plums, leaving the easily gathered ones to other hands. They hung plump and perfect under the dark green foliage, plentiful as grapes, their otherworldly color making me feel like I was foraging in a cartoon world of endless wonder.

Italian plums processing Gregg Fruiting Forward

 

The mixed fruit crumble used both types of plums, along with spoonfuls of zingy pears. I whizzed up a quick topping in the food processor, cutting butter with flour, brown sugar, and oats.

(My grandma’s apple crisp recipe, upon which all of my crisps and crumbles are based, says to bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. We tried this in the toaster oven, however, and ended up having to add 20 minutes or so, bump the heat to 400, and broil at the end to brown it. Maybe the actual oven would be easier next time, heh.)

In addition to the crumble and my own giant batch of zingy pears, I have a semi-spicy, Japanese-chile-infused plum sauce in the works, apple slices drying, and a daily diet of super-ripe tiny plums bursting with sweet wonder juice. A heaven of fruit and flavors, gleaned from once lovingly tended, now wild spaces.

drawn green Fruiting Forward

Much of the inspiration and information underlying this piece comes from my good friend, the talented forager and cook Wendy Petty, blogger at Zester Daily, and Hunger & Thirst, where she is known as “Butter” or my moniker “B” for short. She is based on the outskirts of metro Denver and is an excellent resource for Denver and Boulder-area foraging enthusiasts in Colorado.

This piece was helpful to me in learning the differences between crisps, crumbles, cobblers, and buckles: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/crumble-cobbler_n_3455487.html

Gregg Davis took the bottom photo of me processing the Italian plums. They were more of a striking powder-blue on the tree, but alas, my iPhone shots did not come out.

A Reflection on the Providence of Apples

bag of apples 262x350 A Reflection on the Providence of Apples

One of four bags of apples we collected.

The apple was born wild in Kazakhstan, Michael Pollan explains in The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, in which he examines the relationship between four plants—tulips, apples, potatoes, and marijuana—and people, exploring how each of these plants has proliferated and evolved in the service of satisfying human desires. In the case of the apple, that desire was for sweetness. 

Apples gone wild in the U.S. have their origins first in Kazakhstan, followed much later by the famous Johnny (Chapman) Appleseed, who traveled broadly here, planting apples from seeds and with them the genetic diversity necessary for this humble fruit to adapt to life in the New World. 

One “problem” in planting apples from seeds, however, is that you essentially get wild-edible bearing trees out them (which of course does not bother me)—for the seed of one perfect apple does not a perfect apple tree produce. Instead, an unpredictable tree sprouts, one that is often too “wild” (read: producing small, blemished, and/or gnarled fruit) to make the perfect apple of a grocery store display. Among many, many seedlings, one tree might produce a good strain of apples—an event which Pollan explains to have been cause for much celebration back in the day.  Read the rest of this entry

Hundreds of Apples

ruth gregg apple tree 350x262 Hundreds of Apples

Gregg and Ruth pick apples.

I feel so fortunate today for the generosity of people—and the several hundred apples in Gregg’s parents’ garage just waiting to be peeled and made into applesauce, apple cobbler, dried apple slices, and possibly apple jelly. 

We arrived at Ruth’s house in Aurora yesterday afternoon, severe thunderstorms threatening, and with her help managed to pick several bags full while the storm, which was pouring down in another part of town just a few miles away, passed us by without incident. 

We made Ruth’s acquaintance through this blog. After listening to a piece about urban foraging on NPR that welcomed folks to be generous with their wild edibles, she searched online and found us instead. I don’t mind one bit. “That’s because I integrated Facebook and made you findable!” Gregg exclaimed gleefully upon hearing the news. (This is true; thanks be to Gregg for the web savvy.)  Read the rest of this entry

Free Apples Need a Good Home ASAP

apple tree 350x262 Free Apples Need a Good Home ASAP

Green apple tree photo by Derrick Coetzee. This is not the actual apple tree.

Ruth from southeast Aurora dropped me a line via the blog two days ago offering free green apples from her apple tree, which is going wild with fruit this year. Any Colorado locals are encouraged to take her up on the offer immediately, as the apples are ripe for the picking, in fact falling off the tree at this moment. 

Contact Ruth at 720-217-6394 to schedule a pickup or get directions. 

The timing is good for Gregg and me, too, as we’ll be down Denver way this week and plan to go get some for ourselves, though I don’t think I can handle more than a couple bags full. She believes they are Granny Smiths and they’re 2 to 2.5″ in diameter—good for pies and jams, she says. They’re organic as they’ve never been sprayed.   

If you can’t use any apples yourself please pass on the word lest the fruits of nature’s bounty go to waste.

[Photo is not the actual tree; it is courtesy of Derrick Coetzee, licensed through Creative Commons.]