Last week at our town’s Green Committee meeting, Gary Dawbin came in with a bag of apples picked from a tree in his yard, and my husband, Clif, and I were the lucky recipients. The apples, as you can see from the photo, would not win any prizes for beauty, but Gary assured me they were good cooking apples, perfect for pies and crisps and, of course, apple sauce. When I got home, I tasted one, and it was indeed very good, a little tart and a little sweet.
On Saturday, a cool, rainy day, I commenced making a pie. I love the whole process of baking an apple pie—cutting the apples, making the dough, and then smelling the apples as they cook.
As Clif just received an ice cream maker for his birthday from our friends Bob and Kate, we decided to make some vanilla ice cream to go with the pie. (I also made bread. A busy cooking day!)
When the pie was done, we were eager to sample a piece. What would these little yellow apples with their bruises and blemishes be like in a pie? After only one bite, Clif and I were in total agreement—this was one of the best apple pies we have ever eaten. Clif got it exactly right when he noted, “The apples have just the right balance of tart and sweet.” (Need I add I was thrilled to make such a good pie with backyard apples?) And the homemade vanilla ice cream just gilded the lily.
Quick as can be, I was on the phone, calling Gary Dawbin to find out more about those apples. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell me what variety they were, but he knew they were an old heirloom apple planted by Mose B. Sears, one of the owners of the old Winthrop house in which Gary and his wife, Rose, live. Moses B. Sears owned the house in the 1800s, and when I Googled his name, I also learned that Moses was part of the Maine Anti-Slavery Society. Apparently, along with being socially conscious, Moses had such a green thumb that with its apples, plums, grapes, pears, and blackberries, the yard around his house was referred to as “the Garden of Eden.” (This last bit of information about Moses’ Garden of Eden came from Gary.)
“I have more apples,” Gary said, “If you would like some. There is a limit to how many apples Rose and I can eat.”
“Yes, please!” I said, and on Sunday, Gary gave me enough apples for at least two more pies.
Now, there is also a limit to how much pie Clif and I should be eating, so we shared some of the pie with Gary and his wife, Rose, as well as our friends Dawna and Jim Leavitt. Next weekend, I’ll be making more pie and will be sharing that one as well.
Once upon a time, Winthrop was full of apple orchards, and all over town there are vestiges of these old trees, one here, one there, the varieties long forgotten. The trees were planted during a time when people grew a significant amount of their own food, and they are reminders of how much food this town could produce if it wanted to do so. (We are not the only happy recipients of Gary’s apples from this one tree.)
I’ll let Clif have the last word here: “Gary’s tree needs to be grafted so that those apples can carry on.”