I got apples yesterday. Not just any apples, but ones from heirloom trees grown on a windy ridge in New Berlin. I got some Calville Blanc d’hiver, Seek-no-further, Black Gilliflower, Esopus Spitzenberg, and Hidden Rose, each one totally different in color, shape, smell, taste. These are mostly forgotten apples, many developed hundreds of years ago, although the folks at Weston’s orchard are doing their best to remind us.
Tasting the Spitzenberg, I melted a bit. I experienced a series of flavors, of honey, spice, nut, acid, flower. It was a favorite variety of Thomas Jefferson, that rational-sensualist-gentleman-farmer president of ours, and I can see why. He was a complicated guy and the Spitzenberg’s a complicated apple.
These varieties pose such a contrast to the ubiquitous, mass-produced Red Delicious, with its unbruisable, high-gloss skin and its hard nubbin feet, so steady and reliable during cross-country transport. When people complain that children won’t eat fruits and vegetables these days, I tell them I tell them I’m not surprised. Why would a kid want to eat an apple that has all the sweetness and life of damp cardboard? How can we blame them for asking for some amendment — like caramel dip — to help force it down? The same goes for the carrots (ranch dressing), the potatoes (ketchup), the green beans (cream of mushroom soup, fried onions out of a can, salt), pretty much all of them.
The kids are smart. The food we’ve been trying to feed them has had its soul bred out and it tastes like chemicals and loss. We need to give them their food back, return their rightful heritage we let get stolen. We shouldn’t forget these old apples.