Monday, October 27, 2008

An Apple A Day

On Sunday, a couple friends and I went to the Apple Day festival at Borough Market. Apple Day is a celebration of fall, of the harvest, and, well, of apples. The day was celebrated with apple peeling contests, a harvest parade, bobbing for apples, and an apple tasting.

Yes apple tasting.

As I sampled several breeds of rare apples, it occurred to me: this is what seasonal and local eating is about.

There are a lot of people who view eating locally as, dare I say, an arduous challenge. Locavores want to take our bananas away!

I admit, that I am often a cranky environmentalist, and sometimes I do see eating locally and seasonally  as a burden. 

But yesterday, I had a very different reaction to local eating: gratitude. Without the local food and slow food movement, the incredible variety of apples might well die out.

You see, supermarkets aren't interested in the Smart's Prince Arthur (the larger apples pictured right) because, well, the apples are funny shaped. No matter that they were my favorite apple taste-wise. I mean really. Since when have supermarkets cared about taste?

And I started to realize: what's the point in a market that carries the blandest variety of every fruit under the sun? I mean, I love me some bananas and mangoes, but having a store that carries tasteless plums, durable bananas, unripe mangoes, and only perfectly shaped apples doesn't represent a real choice. 

But what if that store sold twelve different varieties of local apples? What if we sought to become apple gourmands? Because as I can tell you now, all apples do not taste alike. Far from it, the apples I tasted varied in sweetness, in crispness, in pungency. I now know that apples can be appreciated like fine wines or cheeses. 

If we look at it this way, eating seasonally doesn't have to be a net loss. It can be an enormous gain. And while I might still eat bananas and mangoes on occasion, the majority of my fruit bowl will be comprised of local, seasonable fruits. Because now, I'm an apple connoisseur. 

This month Karen at Best of Mother Earth challenged us to think about gratitude. I am grateful for local food. I am grateful for fall and for harvest. And I am grateful to have five different kinds of delicious, juicy, imperfectly shaped apples lying in my fruit bowl right now. 


Burbanmom said...

Ooooh, I am a BIG apple snob! Being from upstate New York, we had many different local varieties to choose from. My favorite fall activity was always heading to the orchards and plucking the fruit straight off the tree to sample the great variety.

Sounds like you had a great weekend!

Mindful Momma said...

Mmmmmm...I'm an apple fan too! I'm grateful for the Honeycrisp (developed here in Minnesota!) - I think it's the best apple ever!

What's the story behind that gorgeous harvest goddess in the photo? And are those policemen guarding her?!!

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I knew that when I was a child. My grandfather had an apple orchard and you couldn't find most of his apples in a grocery store. Shame really because Spy's and Courtlands make an awesome apple pie.

Amber said...

I try to convey this message about local, seasonal eating too! Many of my friends worry that eating locally means being restricted in their choice and limited in variety of things to eat. I explain to them that since eating locally, the different kinds of food I'm eating has expanded unbelievably. I've tried so many new, local foods for the first time...rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, beets (these are all incredibly delicious when roasted in the oven), scapes, ramps, lamb's quarters, stinging nettle, purslane, sumac, apple butter, raspberry syrup, mizuna, romanesco, celery root...not to mention the heritage varieties of carrots, tomatoes....the list goes on. None of these things were in my diet a year ago and they are all grown locally!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, Ruchi.

Apples are one of our staple foods (seriously, I think about 1/8 of our total calories come from apples) because the local ones are so wonderful, cheap, and easily stored.

I'm always amazed at the limited range of things people eat - I know a lot of people who have never eaten beets, or parsnips, or kale. Even squash - one of my stepsisters had never eaten winter squash except in pie.

Green Bean said...

I love this post and have one going up tomorrow on the same topic. Eating locally has opened up a whole new world, a whole new appreciation. Variety really is the spice of life and variety is what seasonal eating is made of.

ruchi said...

That sounds like so much fun. I'll have to go apple picking sometime ... maybe next year, I think it's probably too late now!! :)

Mindful mommma, I'm not sure what the backstory is. There was a parade but we only caught bits and pieces of it. And yes, those are policemen in the background in yellow rain coats. It rained all day unfortunately.

Billie, mmmm, apple pie. Now I'm hungry!

Amber, you are right. I have tried so many new things since I started shopping at farmers' markets. Until I went to farmers' markets, I never knew there was a purple cauliflower for instance!

Rosa, yeah, I was never really a kale eater until this past year. Now it's one of my favorites!

GB, thanks! You are right, as usual, and as you have been telling me for the past year. :) There is so much variety in seasonal eating.

Anna (Green Talk) said...

I gave birth to 8 heirloom trees this summer (not really, but really exciting) and can't wait five years to get apples. I picked these funny names with different tastes. So, mark your calendars green moms for October 2013 for apple picking time in NJ.

An apple tree near us fell down. Burbanmom, do you know if you can replant it? I tasted one of its apples. It was amazing. Nothing like store bought.

Enjoy your apples!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Yum! I couldn't believe it when I went to my first Canadian supermarket and saw all those waxed and polished apples... much better in their natural state, and preferably right off the tree. We don't have our own, but pick whatever hangs over the fence from the neighbour's side (they do the same with our plums and pears) and get some awesome pippins from my mother-in-law.

M said...

What wonderful photos. Apple picking is such a good activity to get children more eco conscious - the more you interact with nature - the more you want to preserve it.

EJ said...

Just curious- do you censor your comments? Or have I not submitted correctly to previous posts?

ruchi said...

Anna, wow, 8 heirloom trees! Awesome.

Cath, picking apples off the tree sounds like so much fun. I'm going to have to make friends with someone with a tree!!

Not quite Crunchy, yeah, you're right. There were a ton of kids there at Apple Day, and I think they all enjoyed it. Rain non-withstanding.

EJ, I don't censor my comments, and I haven't deleted a single comment on this blog so far. So if you're not seeing your comment, it didn't go through. Sorry about that. Blogger kinda sucks sometimes.

Stephanie said...

We had an Apple Fest at my cafeteria recently -- it might not have had the different varieties of apples, but it did have TONS of yummy locally-grown apples baked into treats and food. It was so great. I definitely agree that this is one of the great things of the local food movement. Plus, I don't really care for bananas and mangoes anyway. ;)

Apples seem to mean fall to everyone, and I didn't know that last year. It makes fall feel much better, having some local apple crisp to look forward to!

Farmer's Daughter said...

You are preaching to the choir baby.

The macoun will always be my fave, but I'm supplementing with empires now.

Yeah, growing up in an apple orchard will do that to you.

Diane MacEachern said...

I love heirlooms, too! I can only find them at my farmers market, since I have too much shade to grow them myself. They're such a prize - it feels like I'm carrying on ancient traditions when I cook them.

ruchi said...

Stephanie, you know it's funny but last year I don't think I could have told you when apples season was! But now I won't forget!! ;)

Abbie, sounds apple-icious!

Diane, I know what you mean. You do feel the weight of hundreds of years of apple growing, picking, and cooking. It's pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I was exposed to something other than the ordinary perfect way too shiny red delicious. I found it amazing! True to the season I feel passionate about the options, the taste sensations of an apple and ever so appreciative of the treat that they truly are!

Anonymous said...

You are so right. We discovered like twenty five kinds of apples in our local farmer's market. Honestly I can't even remember the names, but they are definitely not red delicious, granny smith or golden delicious.

I have never been an apple fan until I discovered the crazy variety, a few of them definitely had me at first bite.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ruchi! As a traveler, the local food is what I'm seeking. One of my favorite moments was on our last trip to England. We were hiking the Coast to Coast "Walk" (ah, the Brits are a humble lot - that 190 miles is definately a HIKE!) and stopped at a farmer's market in the town of Orton. FANTASTIC local cheese, apples and other produce, sausages, plus fresh-baked breads and pastries. What a wonderful treat after shopping (reluctantly) at Tesco's. It was a little slice of local heaven. Thanks for writing about Smart's Prince Arthur - can't wait to try one!

Green & Clean Mom said...

Local food is the best. I love our farmers market. Everything tastes better. Apples are a fav in my family and we eat them almost daily too!

JessTrev said...

You might like the book How to Pick a Peach - the author opines along your lines - that if one just eats the best tasting food, our palates will lead us to the most sustainable option. Apples are such a perfect example of this since they can be so mealy and horrid if not local. I so adore a crisp bite of fall perfection....

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

One of my favorite things about our farmer's market right now is tasting and picking out apples. Ugh, I hate Red Delicious apples! Plus, my husband prefers green apples and I like the swirly kind (I call them pink but they're really red and yellow swirls), so it's nice to have some variety.