I have only two memories of fruit bearing trees – a crab apple in the yard of my elementary school and the pear tree in my parents side yard. The crab apple was low and wide and we used to run around under it and squish the fallen fruit under keds sneakers. I don’t know of anyone who tried to eat anything from it. The pear tree is taller than the house and, despite probably ten years of growing, has only ever yielded tiny sour fruit. Sandy soil and salty air just aren’t good makings for orchards.
Last year we explored some of this new world of fruit trees at UBC Botanical Garden’s annual Apple Festival. I was a little familiar with the idea of not growing from seeds but from grafts but I was surprised at the incredible difference of juice from fresh-pressed apples and at the taste in the different varieties. We were able to taste a bunch (did you know there are thousands more than the regular old red delicious?) including a Granny-Smith competitor called Shamrock and, my new favorite, Winter Banana. It’s sweet but I swear I tasted a hint of the tropics!
We missed this year’s celebration, but I’ve kept up my purchasing of “strange” apple varieties. This year we’ve eaten quite a few from Klippers as well as other farmer’s market stands here in town. We also raided a few from an orchard in Crescent Beach. I learned that this is called “scrumping” in a joke (I forgot by whom… Bill Bailey maybe?) about how this is the only kind of theft you can use such a cute word for. Well, here’s to scrumping and to those who keep orchards. I’m so glad to be eating the fruits of your labor I’ll express it in an adage!