Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The apples are in!

Well, so much for not hurrying the apples along. The rains really started coming down and when I went down the next morning, one of them had a crack in the skin.

I figured it was from how much water the trees must be soaking up after our three-month dry spell, when the apples really don't want grow any bigger. I thought, if one more gets a crack, I'll bring them all in. That night we got 2.4" of rain, and while it was coming down at 2:30 in the morning, I decided I'd bring them all in as soon as I could get outside in the morning. So I did. There was a bucketful!

There were so many I put them all out on the counter after I washed them so I could count them.

Twenty-one in this batch, plus the five in the fridge and the four I'd already dried—makes thirty! Way more than I thought were on the tree! Wow! Hooray for Liberty apples!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's apple time!

There's not much left in the garden to harvest besides the potatoes I'm still bringing up every week, but the apples are coming on in the orchard! I went out this morning with a bucket and got 5 that came off in my hand as I touched them. There are still nearly a dozen that say, "No, no!" when I pull on them, and I don't want to hurry them! I've already dried 4 that came down or I knocked off in the last two weeks, and though they're really tart, they're certainly flavorful. I've read you can let them sit in cold storage for up to a month and they'll gradually grow sweeter without losing their crispness, so I may just hold these in the fridge till they're all down. I've always wondered how I'll know when they're ripe, but it's completely obvious once the abscission layer has formed in the stem—the slightest touch dislodges them. It's not a question of pulling on them—it's as if nothing is holding them there. I have to pick with both hands to keep them from falling. I honestly don't know why they didn't come down in the breezes we've had.

And they're so pretty! The flesh is crisp, flawless, and white. I can't wait to taste a fully ripe one! The sunscald spots are just thickened, dried areas, on the very surface, and easy to cut out.

I also dried my three asian pears, which have been sitting in the fridge for several weeks, waiting for me to have enough to dry. The two I pulled off early have a little sweetness, but the last one, probably the only one that actually got ripe, has an amazing nectar-like flavor that really surprised me. Now I can't wait till next year, and I hope I'll get a lot more. Yum!

This is my third year of drying fruit that I've bought, but the first time I've ever dried fruit I've grown. I have to say, there's something really deeply satisfying about slicing up a beautiful—and even the not so perfectly beautiful—piece of fruit that I've known since it was a flower bud. I recommend it highly. It seems more personal than the potatoes, which form underground, and you don't know what you're getting till you dig them up. Being able to see them go from buds to flowers, to itty bitty fruits, then get bigger, change color, and then finally—finally!—come off the tree into your eager hands.

Speaking of apples, I've decided to move the young Gala that I planted up in the back yard 3 years ago to where it will get more sun. It has barely bloomed, let alone fruited, where it is, so I moved an ornamental grass to make room for it on the near side of the barn. There isn't any more room in the orchard, so this will be the best I can do for it, but it will definitely get more light, and lots more direct sun. I also bought it a buddy, whom I've already planted. It turns out that Gala and Honeycrisp are good cross-pollinators, and I found a lovely young Honeycrisp on sale this fall, so I'm hoping they'll hit it off and make lots of pretty little apples once they get established. Neither one is as disease-resistant as the Liberty, but they are two of my favorite eating apples, so why not give them a try?

My pineapple sage came through as promised with these scarlet red flowers. It was one of the plants I was struggling to keep watered during the seemingly endless drying winds we had before the rain finally came, because the flower stalks were just forming then and I didn't want to lose them. Next year I plan to get a half-dozen more of these for other places in the garden, and pinch them back a bit so I'll get more flowers. They're a great shot of color for so late in the season.

I still haven't moved my rhubarb plants out of the garden. I've been sidelined for two weeks with a pulled shoulder and I'm still not quite ready to get out and dig holes. I hope I can get them out before the ground gets too cold, but if I have to wait till next spring—oh, well.

I still have several weeks' worth of potatoes waiting to come out, and have a few comments. I was really underwhelmed by the Russian Bananas. They taste fine—mild—but I really didn't get many. Maybe fingerings in general need more richness in the soil? If I didn't such nice clumps from the blues, I'd take it personally. It probably is something I'm doing wrong, but I don't know what. So far I haven't been impressed by any of the fingerlings I've planted. The blues and the red skins, including the Cherry Reds I planted this year, give me  a nice haul of big fat taters, and both blues this year have such outstanding flavor compared to the others, I may just stick to them. I am really impressed with Purple Majesty. I can't say I like them any less than the All Blues, and that's saying a lot. I don't think I could tell them apart except for the white layer under the skin on the All Blues.