Saturday, October 17, 2015

Wild Apple Stories

"It takes a savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild fruit." (Henry David Thoreau, Wild Apples)

From light soft yellow in our backyards as we wake up to the end of summer, to wild red orange and pink tones coating the sides of our repaved roads; and then the bright green popping out from the woods leading us home from work at dusk.
Alas, we are coming to the beginning of the end of the wildest of apple seasons, and I have hundreds of trees yet to glean. Undoubtedly beautiful, it is the stories these trees, landscapes and humanized wild fruit carry with them and the unique secrets they hold within that fascinate me.

On a personal note, gleaning my grandmother’s Summer Transparent apples was a joy in itself, but finding out that my great grandmother’s apple tree was an original seedling was a family celebration. The biggest of the three apple trees at our family compound, I don’t think I’d ever before seen an apple on this old tree, now a treasure that we will surely value as inheritance. With the blessing of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) apple heritage and identification project partner Todd Little-Siebold, we have named and identified the apple variety as Lucie, an apple wonderful for sauce and cooking, named after the original property owner, my great grandmother, and the current property owner, my mother. And when I look at those apples, all I can think of is the redundant literal humor in saying "Lucie you are the apple of my eye", and have my mother wonder if it is she or the apple I am speaking of.

Another apple success story relates to what The Mobile Kitchen has been doing with George Stevens Academy (GSA) in Blue Hill, working to increase awareness of the agricultural cycles and culinary uses of local foods, such as apples. Anna Wind has been an incredible resource, supporting The Gleaning Initiative in its first attempts to move beyond the gleaning phase to actually preserving and educating around what can be done with our community’s surplus food. GSA students have been engaged in gleaning for four weeks, harvesting surplus from orchards and farms, as well as processing some of the foods into taste testers for morning school snacks, and producing complementary dishes for school lunch.

The Gleaning & Mobile Kitchen Initiative

Chunky Apple Sauce - A sweet way to preserve the bounty of a wild or cultivated apple harvest. Tasty as a snack solo or topped with granola or chopped nuts.


Maine delivers a bounty of apple varieties and this year was exceptional! The GSA Gleaning Group recovered six bushels of Gravenstein apples from John Steed’s Orchard in Deer Isle and shared the harvest with the farmer as well as centers for hunger relief within the community.

Ingredient List
40 Cooking Apples or about 15lbs
1 Cup Water
4 Lemons
3 Large Cinnamon Sticks
½ Honey ( sweeten as desired)

Makes about 30 servings of sauce


1.     Apples- Begin by washing the apples and removing any brown or soft spots, in this recipe we will keep the skin on for flavor, color and nutritional value. (Tip: Often times many of the nutrients available in fruits and vegetables we eat come from the skin, so think twice before peeling organic fruits and vegetables. You might actually be discarding some of the best vitamins and antioxidants that produce has to offer!)
2.     Continue to process the apples by removing the stem, core, and seeds. Chop the apples into small to medium sized pieces, place the apple chunks into a large pot.
3.     Squeeze the lemons into a small bowl through a sieve. Discard any seeds and add the juice to the chopped apples. (Tip: Have you ever noticed how apples turn brown once they are sliced? Lemon juice is acidic and slows the oxidation process that we see as discoloration).
4.     Add water and cinnamon sticks. Place a lid on the pot and simmer on low for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally with a long spoon.
5.     Once the apples have reached a soft, but not soupy consistency, add the honey and stir, adjusting sweetness to taste. Enjoy hot or cold!

Note: If you prefer a smooth sauce, once the sauce has cooled, use a food mill, a kind of strainer that has a rotating blade and pushes the soft pulp through separating the skins.

Experiment with different varieties of apples in your sauce, some varieties of wild ones make the tastiest sauces. Or, mix it up and add other spices like ginger or nutmeg!

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