An Apple A Day

We moved to McMinnville the beginning of September seven years ago. Our rental house has an amazing backyard with a huge herb garden, a lot of raspberry canes, two blueberry bushes, some rhubarb and two apple trees.

gravenstein apples

When we finished unpacking we could pay attention to the apples that littered the ground under one tree. I gleaned what I could and made some pretty darn good apple sauce and an apple pie. The rest of the ground fall was too far gone but I was eager for the next harvest.  We brought an apple and some leaves to the farmers’ market where the master gardeners identified it as a Gravenstein.

That was a new apple to me. I grew up in the Northeast and my favorite was a sweet-tart Stayman Winesap.  It made great sauce and pies and each apple was so large, you really only needed three or maybe four for a pie.  In those days I was bothering to peel the apples before cooking, so the fewer, the better.

Image result for stayman winesap
source: Century Farm Orchards

It was when I moved to Tennessee in the 1970s that I learned that apples generally have preferred growing zones, and regional varieties are not common elsewhere. So, the Gravenstein easily became my go-to and as Can-Do Real Food began, it was the apple found in the applesauce, the apple pie filling mix and later, dried.

But there was another apple tree in the backyard. Each year it would bloom but produce no apples. The master gardeners could not identify it from the leaves. All we knew was it was not a Gravenstein.apple blossoms April 11 2014

Both trees had not been properly maintained so we had them trimmed back. That next year we had about 6 apples on the mystery tree but I found them too late…..they were early summer apples and I had not checked early enough.

Last year we had a “bumper” crop—about 50 apples, all growing on the northeast section of the tree. (I have no idea why THAT was the growth pattern.) We brought the apple down to the farmers’ market and the master gardeners were stumped and suggested I take the apple to some apple agency office in the Portland metro area. We were not that concerned,  especially after I took a bite….and was not impressed.

I made up some applesauce. It was flat…..so I added some sugar and cinnamon and lemon juice. It was edible, but nothing I wanted to use for Can-Do. So I canned the applesauce for home consumption.

But I got a brainstorm to thin the applesauce and make fruit-roll-ups that would become tasty with the addition of…..something.

I had some blueberries in the freezer and made a puree which I swirled into the applesauce mix on the dehydrator sheet. When I ran out of berries, I then sprinkled the rest of the applesauce trays with candied ginger.

apple bluebberry roll-up
fruit leather before becoming a roll-up

Come taste the fruit roll-up concoctions this Thursday at the farmers’ market and see if I turned an early summer apple into something worth repeating.

It may be a moot point…both trees had abundant flowers and the Gravenstein is forming small apple buds now, but all the early apple tree shows is the remains of the flower. So, appears it was not pollinated and you know what, that is just okay with me. We get PLENTY from the Gravenstein!

apples in June
June 2017 Gravenstein tree is loaded!

Fruit Feast

Living in the Willamette Valley is a food lover’s paradise. We have just about everything but tropical plants here, so lots to enjoy.  Each summer’s harvests seem to start with strawberries and then on to other fruits before the veggies start producing. So I’ve been dehydrating yummies since the end of May all for your potential future enjoyment.

  • Strawberries from this year’s crop.  Sweet and yummy.
  • Bananas from the grocery store…they LOOKED too far gone by the outer peel but were about 98% usable to dry.  So remember that when next time you see “old” bananas marked down!
  • Figs from last season soft and chewy.
  • Cherries  Most are sweet but one or two pie cherries might have snuck in.
  • Concord grape fruit leather – okay, I’ll come clean…. I tried to make fruit roll-ups but they didn’t turn out to be rollable…so they were cut into pieces.
  • Pears from the start of this year’s harvest.
  • Apples dehydrated last fall.
  • Cantaloupe is pure candy. Unbelievable how this experience convinced me!
  • Raisins from last fall’s Thompson grapes.
  • Raspberry fruit leather from this season that also was a fail as a fruit leather but provides that zingy sweetness perfectly.
  • dried fruit a