Apples – the autumnal fruit.
They have the ability to conjure images of crisp mornings, warm afternoons and cold nights as well as dew that hangs on the grass well into the morning.
Apples remind us of seeing our breath as we scurry to school or afternoon walks with dogs in the neighborhood, stealing that ripe fruit from the tree that hangs over the sidewalk.
I had the pleasure of tasting a relatively rare variety this week. Its name was unknown to me or the homeowner in Hermosa, but it was one of the last (and only) fruit on the tree.
Upon cutting it open, I could see the red from the peel bleed into the flesh, resulting in this amazing transitional pink hue. But if that wasn’t enough, it was the flavor that made me fall in love faster than I did for Jennifer Hay in fifth grade – a little tart (the apple, not Jennifer) but with subtle tones of cotton candy. Every bite was a little bit different.
While it may sound like I have a complex palette, I don’t. I classify wines by those that are sweet and those that sting my throat on the way down.
Within the flavor of our apples is the history that comes with them: from Central Asia to China, westward across America with Johnny Appleseed, the orchards of Montezuma County and the pockets of century-old trees that grace the Hermosa Creek drainage.
From the tart (Jonathan) to the sweet (Gala) to combinations of both (Honeycrisp, Braeburns and Cameo), we all have our favorites. Give me a bushel each of Swiss Gourmet, Buckeye Gala and Ginger Golds and I am a very happy – and full – man.
Where I currently live, there are no apple trees, nor any fruit trees for that matter. Perhaps that’s why I love them so much – I don’t have to deal with the falling and rotting fruit, or the marauding bears.
But I do wish that I could quickly run out in the “orchard” and grab a couple for the kids’ lunches or a dozen or so for mom to make an apple crisp. I would like to shake the tree come October, enough to make fruit leather, sauce and pie filling.
Until that day comes, I’ll be content with finding apples around Southwest Colorado, which can be seen around every corner.
Head west into Montezuma County and there are active and heritage orchards throughout. The Colorado State University Research Station in Yellow Jacket will hold its annual U-Pick in a few weeks. And while the crop is much less than normal (about 75 percent of the fruit was lost during an April freeze), you can find high-quality apples.
Closer to Durango, don’t forget about Apple Days. This free, family-friendly festival will be held Oct. 4 at Buckley Park. We hope to harvest a couple of tons of apples the day before. I will highlight this event more next month, but mark your calendar now.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at email@example.com or 382-6464.