A time-honored tradition for country folk is harvesting wild foods, such as fiddle-head ferns in the spring. But sometimes, on the edges of former homesteads, you can find semi-wild foods (or food that has gone wild!), such as apples.
Pioneers and homesteaders have been planting apple trees since Plymouth days. Apples are a wonderfully versatile fruit; they can be stored for months and used as is, or transformed into cider, sauce, and dried apples for pies and cobblers. Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) spent much of his life in the late 1700 and early 1800s planting apple nurseries, primarily in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. It is said that some of those trees are still bearing apples.
But you don’t have to go to those states to find free-for-the-asking apples. Just by taking an autumn drive in the country, you will probably find an old farmstead with an apple tree or two loaded with apples, ready to become deer and bear fodder. Before picking, always try to find who owns the trees and if it is OK to pick the apples. You also might find trees, full of ripe apples, in your neighbor’s. They may be thrilled to have someone pick them rather than having to deal with rotting apples in the grass.
I was prompted to write about windfall apples by my experience at work this week. A group of us were taking our noon walk, where we routinely pass a closed retirement facility. Most of the leaves have fallen and so I noticed a formerly hidden tree, full of red somethings. On closer inspection, I discovered that it was an apple tree, still loaded with good fruit. Since no one is currently living on the site, I felt comfortable taking a few apples to make into apple sauce. Many of the apples had blemishes and some bug spots, but on the whole, they were perfect for boiling down for sauce. What a serendipitous find!!
I think I will make a note on the calendar for next fall to locate some more orphan apple trees in my area. Making apple sauce from a variety of apple types makes for the best tasting sauce. And if I find enough really tasty ones, I can make my father's favorite apple dessert - a schnitz pie. But that story will have to wait for another day.
Do you have a favorite found food? Tell us about it.
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