I love that knotty, wormy fruit though. I'm comforted by the honesty of it. I know where it came from, I know if it was good enough for the worms, or the yellow jackets, or a nibbles-worth of a squirrel's lunch, that it's good enough for me. I know I can just cut out the bad spots, but a lot of the time, the bruises have their own unique taste. I remember Carl Buchanan picking up a windblown apple, cutting it in half and, upon seeing the brown interior remarking, "Mmm, that'uns got cider in it!"
Most folks today probably only know about seven different types of apples, because apples come from the produce isle, via the Northwest (even when apples are in season here). Those seven disease resistant, brightly colored apples with no "ugly" russet, are all we need now. Forget the thousands of types that got us here. The ones that were powerfully tart and small, but would last until spring in the canning house. Forget the early apples, we don't need to worry about what's in season anymore.
Someone else, "who's corn's for sale," will bring you beautiful, perfect apples cheap, until you forget what a real apple tastes like--looks like.
My favorite apple tree is a seedling. Which means, it wasn't grafted, so it has no history. It is not "a type." It grows at the top of the meadow above the old barn at Mom and Dad's, reaching out from the side of the woods to catch the sun. It came up beside a 100-year-old locust fencepost, and who knows how the seed got there. It is an unusually flavored little red apple. My friend, Andrew Payseur said once, astonishment etched across his face, that it "tastes just like a SunDrop!" (He drinks those things like water, so I guess I'll take it as a compliment.) I've grafted it a few times, hoping someone might care for it in years to come. And maybe hoping that one day, when somebody else owns that beautiful patch of land, that I can take a little bit of Young Cove with me.
Unlike tomatoes, or beans, Apple trees take a good long time to bring fruit. They are a long-term, placed-based commitment. And once they really get going, they don't take care of themselves. They need to be nurtured, trimmed, and looked after. It is not an easy thing, but it is an important and rewarding thing.
I know that it's hard. I know that we are busy. And I know that it's tempting to sit inside on a cold day, and "tenderly tap on small screens." But there are old apple trees out there that have a lot to teach us.
So take a bite of that ugly, imperfect fruit, don't be afraid of its honesty. Do dig in, let's swallow our egos and fears, and have conversations about where that little apple came from.