Friday, September 6, 2013
Before the Frost: Gathering Wild Apples
Yesterday our region was under the first frost watch of the season. It's early - more than a week early - and our garden is nowhere near done. So there was scrambling going on: I picked the few tomatoes that had started to turn color, and harvested all of the cucumbers.
I never grew birdhouse gourds before, so I had to research what needed to be done about them due to the approaching frost. (Turns out there's not much I could do at this point but cross my fingers and hope for the best!)
We covered the tomatoes that were still green with sheets of plastic, braced up on an impromptu framework of scrap wood, pvc pipe, and a metal tipped pole.
That took care of everything I'd put in the ground. It was time to take a look at what Mother Nature provides.
Foraging: Gathering Wild Apples
I have a great interest in wild foods and foraging - a passion that I must admit is not shared by my husband, who remains perpetually wary that I'm going to poison everyone. If you know anyone like this, I have to recommend wild apples as a great 'gateway food' - berries are of course the top choice, for I've never met anyone who can resist woodland strawberries.
On the edge of our property is a big old apple tree that isn't wild as much as it is feral. I'm sure someone planted it once upon a time, but it hasn't had a lot of regular attention since then. This year, we've had a lot of rain, and the apples got huge.
Wearing my trusty boots - the apple tree is on the edge of a bog, and did I mention we have had a lot of rain - I went out and gathered as many apples that looked to be of decent quality as I could reach. You'd be surprised how an apple tree that was completely untended could produce so many apples!
They're not store perfect, but you have to let go of the idea that any wild food you pick is going to be store perfect. In real life, free from any human 'help', apples grow in a wide array of sizes and shapes; they're not all perfectly 'apple shaped'. Some had lots of spots and wind burn; others were clearly the home for hungry bugs - those I left alone! Even passing those by, in about half an hour, I picked the two bowls of apples you see in the picture - more than enough for an apple crisp and some apple sauce for the family. They have some small spots, but nothing you can't easily cut out with a knife.
I made the apple crisp last night. It was delicious :-) If I'd had to buy those apples, it'd cost me about $8. Instead, they were free for the harvesting, and it was a nice way to enjoy a sunny - if surprisingly cold! - September afternoon.
Gather Ye Roses While Ye May
Sometimes the simple life is a really good one.