|Apples, gourds, and squash on the kitchen table|
at Darlington House
We enjoy filling large antique bowls with apples from Philip Orchards at Darlington, and we place them about the house where they fill the rooms with their sweet and heady fragrance. We eat as many of these apples as we can, but we are never able to consume all that we pick. Once they start to turn, as they inevitably do, we throw them in the fields at the back of our property, where animals that live in the area feed upon them. They don't go to waste.
|The Apples of New York -- the definitive textbook on the subject|
We also bring baskets and bags full of apples back to the city at weekend's end. We share them with the staff in our city apartment building, and we also bring apples in to our offices to share with the people we work with.
Apples are not native to New York, but were introduced by Europeans when they settled there almost four hundred years ago. There are over 700 known varieties that have been cultivated over the years. With the ascendency of the local food movement, many of the old-fashioned, or "heirloom", varieties that had not yet become extinct have been reintroduced to the apple-eating public, often in farmers' markets.
|The Apples of New York is beautifully illustrated with color plates |
(Mrs. Blandings take note of the name of this apple!)
One of the great textbooks on the fruit that Eve tempted Adam with is The Apples of New York, a two-volume, profusely illustrated encyclopædia of apples published in 1903 by the State of New York Department of Agriculture. We are fortunate to own a set here at Darlington House that we bought at a charity auction several years ago. It takes pride of place in our horticulture library, where it is joined by--among other books on topics of interest to gardeners--other early twentieth-century horticultural encyclopædia published by the State of New York, including The Plums of New York, The Cherries of New York, and The Wild Flowers of New York.
|A gorgeous red Macoun picked at Philip Orchards|
Did you know that it was not until the twentieth century that apples were primarily grown in America to be consumed as food, rather than for their juice? Until Prohibition, most of the apple production in this country was dedicated to the making of cider, much of it fermented as alcohol. It was not until after Prohibition was repealed that beer surpassed cider as the alcoholic beverage of choice for many working Americans.
|A New York state apple orchard, circa 1900, as depicted in The Apples of New York|
Many apple growers were bankrupted during Prohibition, and it was during that misguided period of supposed temperance in this country that the jingle "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" was coined to promote the consumption of the noble fruit.
|A Red Delicious--no wonder this is America's favorite apple|
When Reggie was a boy his parents owned a country house in rural Maryland, where his family went most weekends. It was a working farm, with much of the land planted with fruit trees by prior owners, covered with apple, peach, and cherry trees.
|A color plate from The Apples of New York|
The farm was spectacular in the spring, when the trees were covered with blossoms, and it was magnificent in the summer and autumn, too, when the trees were covered with fruit. My parents let the property to a local farmer who harvested and sold the fruit. One of Reggie's joys as a boy was exploring the farm's cavernous stone root barns, where the farmer stored apples over the winter in large wooden crates, stacked to the ceiling. The scent of the apples was almost overpowering and is a great sense memory of mine, much like Proust's madeleines.
|A pretty Jona Gold, sitting on our New York server |
at Darlington House
My parents sold our farm in the early 1970s to a man who then sold it to a developer in the early 1980s. It has since been turned in to a "town home" development of luxury properties for commuters to suburban Washington, D.C., office parks. What a far cry it is today from the plain farm that I knew and loved as a boy.
|Another plate from The Apples of New York|
Living in the Hudson River Valley as I do today, I appreciate the fragility of the farming culture in areas where economics have shifted to favor development over agriculture. I respect and value the men and women who farm these lands and who choose to do so in the face of great obstacles, when it must be tempting, indeed, to sell out to weekenders from Manhattan or commuters to Albany.
|And yet one more plate from The Apples of New York|
I cherish the farms here in New York, and I feel it is my obligation to support them with my patronage. But that is easy for me, since what they produce is so wonderful. Not only do I enjoy consuming their bounty, I like giving gifts of it.
Only last weekend Boy and I gave some apples to my friend and fellow blogger Lindaraxa, who was visiting New York and invited us to a dinner that she cooked. It was held in the apartment of her friend Sylvia, with whom she was staying during her visit. Lindaraxa made a divine Bolognese lasagna and served it with a simple green salad, followed by a delicious autumn apple crisp. Heaven. If you are not familiar with her blog Lindaraxa's Garden, I encourage you to visit it. It is a repository of marvelous recipes for mouth-watering food (including most recently the lasagna she served Reggie), and is beautifully written and presented.
|A sweet basket of apples for a friend|
We brought Lindaraxa this pretty little bushel of apples from Philip Orchards when we joined her for dinner. Boy picked the apples only the previous day, and he tied it with a lovely crimson satin ribbon. It couldn't have been a more simple or more beautiful gift. And our friend Lindaraxa loved it.
All photographs by Boy Fenwick