Opinion: A salute to apples

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Commentary by Ward Degler

Honeycrisp apples are back on the store shelves. I can think of no better name for these beauties. Sweet, tart and crisp in one globular fruit.

Today, we buy Honeycrisps in small, pre-packaged containers or, at some stores, one at a time. Pricy things, but oh, so tasty!

The Honeycrisp is another in a long line of apple varieties developed by the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center in Minneapolis. Folks up there have been messing around with apples for a long time.

A few years ago they came up with the Haralson, also sweet, tart and crisp. I fell in love with Haralsons when I lived in Minnesota. So much so, that I loaded a young Haralson tree into the back seat of an airplane and flew it back to Indiana. Unfortunately, it couldn’t stand the hot Indiana summer and died.

Another apple that is popular just about everywhere is the McIntosh. Minnesota had nothing to do with this cultivar, however, since it has been the national apple of Canada since 1811.

When I was a kid we bought apples by the bushel, always from the local orchard. Mostly they were Maiden Blush, Jonathon or Black Twigs. Maiden Blush originated in Philadelphia in 1817. Black Twigs came from Tennessee and were reportedly Andrew Jackson’s favorite apple. Jonathons showed up either in 1796 in Ohio or in 1826 in New York. Both states still claim birthrights to this day.

Back home at harvest time we would drive out to the orchard and load up the car with as many bushels as we could cram into the back seat and the trunk. We always hoped we wouldn’t get a flat tire on the trip because dad would remove the spare to make room for more apples.

Mom always made a couple apple pies at harvest time. Then we meticulously wrapped the remaining apples in newspaper and stored them in a barrel that we kept in a dark corner of the cellar.

For the rest of the fall and through the winter, when dinner was over and the dishes were washed and put away, I would trek down to the cellar and bring back an apple for every member of the family.

Our entertainment in those days was the radio, and we would gather in the living room and punctuate Fibber McGee and Molly with the crunching of apples.

Around the first of March the apples began showing signs of age. The good ones were wrinkled. Others had rotted, and I had the job of cleaning out the barrel.

My wife and I still enjoy an apple every evening.

After the dishes are done, of course.

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