This week, we celebrate the apple. Should we speak of the small orchard we planted in our first year at Arlington Gardens, or of the old apple trees we have discovered scattered here and there along the riverbank? Both warrant a brief accounting. We wanted an orchard of apple, pear and plum trees. So far, only the first have deigned to cooperate, as we have begun to harvest our first Empire, Cortland, Red Delicious and Russet apples this year. They are undeniably delicious, but somewhat lacking in aesthetic appeal. In our haste to plant an orchard, we opted for not only the most popular, but clearly also the most demanding of varieties.
Fortunately, Mother Nature continues to watch over us, sharing her secrets with us — when, as, and if she finds us worthy. Lately, these include at least a half-dozen hardy apple trees, as old as Methusaleh, sprinkled around the farm. First there is the Coach House tree, so named because of its proximity to the farm building of the same name behind the farmhouse, planted by a former master-gardener: its apples smell tartly of a bygone era when sweetness was not at such a premium. But two other trees have also captured our imagination: one, a runty skeleton of a tree down by the reclaimed and soon-to-be reconstructed railroad bridge, with honey-sweet, lemony apples; the other, a crabapple tree across the river, laden with yellow, fabulously sweet, apples…a revelation, no less.