Apples signify the holiday season

By JEFF NORTH,

No trip to the hunting camp can be complete without first stopping by your local grocer for items that will sustain you for a few days or perhaps longer. I’m sure most of us have a routine of which aisles to travel first. My jaunt usually begins with picking up charcoal and paper towels. From there I sometimes waiver in my procedure for seldom do I have a list made. Of course this lack of planning always results in stopping somewhere along the way to pick up what was missed or in the very least a phone call has to be made to a fellow member to catch my slack. I have to admit, I actually enjoy walking through the aisles this time of year looking at all the seasonable treats that are on display for the upcoming holidays. The vast assortment of candies and nuts always catch my eye and marketing is working for many of these items find their way to my basket. However, without a doubt, what intrigues me the most and what I can’t resist from grabbing are the many varieties of apples that take first place in the produce section. It’s just natural that apples are as much a part of the holidays as a Thanksgiving turkey is or a decorated Christmas tree is.

Belonging to the family Rosaceae, no fruit is as rich in history and folklore as the apple is. Though commonly thought of as the “forbidden fruit”, the apple actually does not appear in the Old Testament’s Book of Genesis. This debate over what fruit was actually eaten by Adam and Eve has continued for centuries. Some theologians suggest that it could have been a fig, a pomegranate, a grape, or an olive. There are still those that suggest the “fruit” of question is really just symbolic of a deed of evil or immorality. Even the genus of which the apple belongs, (Malus) means both apple and evil. It seems to me this wonderful fruit may be the victim of an analogy gone wrong. Regardless, the history of the apple is rich and continues.

 

Apples are novel in the fact they are a product of their own genetic creativity through a phenomenon of heterozygosity. This simply ensures that an apple grown through seed won’t be anything like its parents. This, in part, is why there is such diversity in the number of varieties that we have to choose from and enjoy. In reality, apples grown from seed are typically bitter and sour. The sweet apples that we are so fond of are grown from those trees that have been grafted and desirable traits and tastes are then created through this process. Of course John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, condemned grafting and labeled it as wicked and an injustice to what the apple really is. He collected his seeds from cider mills and established nurseries throughout much of the mid-west. His apples however, were mouth-puckering and most of his cultivars went into producing cider and applejack. In reality he was disseminating booze instead of tasty treats. How clever, you sly devil.

There are numerous experiences that are fond memories of mine where apples are center stage. I remember sitting with my dad in the swamps around Eagle Lake during deer season years ago. We were nestled in around a huge oak and I remember his 30.06 lying across his worn corduroy hunting pants as we waited on a buck. I was much too young to carry a rifle but I was still there with my dad. I couldn’t have been much older than four years old. I’ll never forget him reaching into his camo jacket and bringing out an apple. He began slicing it with his old case pocket knife and alternately sharing the thin slivers of fruit. One for me and then one for him until nothing but a core was left. As insignificant as this may seem, it profoundly stands out in my bank of memories of a hunting experience with my dad. I think of it quite often, especially when I am sitting in a deer stand in the flatlands of the delta.

 

I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Dolly Barker, and her ability to twist an apple in half. She never made a cut to get it started and it was always perfectly split so we could share a half if we so desired. I have tried numerous times and I still can’t do it. Maybe you would like to try this sometime. If it works for you, please share your technique.

My mom was always doing something in the kitchen with apples, especially this time of year. Nothing created the holiday atmosphere like mom making spiced tea or baking apples. The aroma that drifted throughout our home and down the street when apples were in the pot put everyone in the spirit of the season. Such fun it was when we dipped those tart Granny Smith’s into that molten caramel and set them on the wax paper to dry. I just can’t imagine the winter and our cherished holidays being complete without apples playing a huge part of tradition. Is your mouth watering now for those crisp, juicy treats that are stacked in rows for the “picking”? Why don’t you head on down and pick some up. Oh, and don’t forget the caramel that goes oh so well with them. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time, enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.