Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Fleeting Joys of Apple Season

That sweet, aromatic, not-too-hot-and-not-too-cool time that is Apple Season has come and gone here in the Carolina Piedmont, and I miss it already. The days of picking, crunching and baking our hearts out always seem to go by much too quickly. But perhaps that makes them all the sweeter while they last. Often just as sweet as the apples themselves is the experience of trekking through a local orchard with my husband and daughters to find the crispiest, juiciest ones.

Papa adorns his apple sprites
with Morning Glory blossoms.
This year we visited Carrigan Farms in Mooresville, NC to do our picking. It was a perfect day for it--bright, crisp and dry. We picked so many we had a hard time carrying them back to the car! There are many other great places to pick apples in North Carolina, especially in the western mountains. In fact, apples are grown in all 50 U.S. states, and grown commercially in 36 states. If you'd like to learn where you can find locally grown apples in or near your own community, visit (This website lists pick-your-own farms for apples and many other kinds of produce throughout U.S. and in a number of other countries as well.)

Not only are apples a delicious, inexpensive, and convenient food, they are also packed with healthy nutrients. While many of us grew up hearing that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," Kerri-Ann Jennings points out in this Huffington Post article that these days,
apples are so commonplace that they're almost overlooked and pushed aside by flashier superfruits, such as pomegranates and goji berries.
But apples truly are a superfood themselves. Among the many benefits they offer are:
  • Bone protection
  • Asthma relief
  • Weight control
  • Immunity enhancement
  • Cholesterol control
  • Alzheimer's protection
  • Parkinson's protection
  • Cancer protection (lung, breast, colon and liver)
  • Diabetes management
  • Dental health
  • Gallstone prevention
  • Digestive health
  • Hemorrhoid prevention
  • Liver detoxification
It makes sense, then, that humans have enjoyed and celebrated apples for many generations. Cultivated for over 4,000 years, apples have often played a prominent role in festive occasions as well as in everyday life. The ancient Greeks used apples both ceremoniously (e.g., in weddings) and medicinally. Hippocrates, known as "the father of medicine," reportedly said, “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food.” As Anna Lovett-Brown points out in her essay on the history of apples, "his most favored prescriptions for his patients included apples, dates and barley mush." The Romans also celebrated this nutritious and tasty fruit. Through cross-breeding and grafting, they developed its sweetness and increased its size, and spread it throughout Europe. They considered the apple a symbol of love and fertility, and fĂȘted Pomona, the goddess of the orchards, during this season of the year (on November 1). Apples also featured prominently in Samhain, the Celt's autumnal harvest celebration.

Apples are not native to North America (with the exception of the sour crabapple), but were brought here by the earliest European settlers and soon embraced by Native Americans, who cultivated many new varieties. By the mid-seventeenth century, apple orchards were spreading rapidly. Today, the U.S. is the second leading producer of apples in the world.

In continuing our own family's tradition of picking apples together each fall, then, we are following a long, culturally diverse line of predecessors. So what have we done with all those apples we picked? After my comedy-of-errors attempt to make a year's supply of applesauce a couple of apple-picking seasons ago, I foreswore ever trying that again. Instead, we've made sauteed apples with biscuits, apple turnovers, apple pancakes, and an "Apple Crisp Pie" I'd never tried before (pictured below). If you'd like to try it, you can find the recipe here. We also hope to make apple muffins and, of course, Aunt Tootie's Apple Cake (see my post from Friday, November 18, 2011). Mmmm mmmm.

I hope you get to enjoy some local apples and other autumn harvests this fall. There really is so very much to savor and be thankful for this time of year. All hail Pomona! 

After Apple-Picking

by Robert Frost
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

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