The glorious property surrounding my studio used to be part of acres and acres of orchards, but over time it was divided into smaller parcels of land. As with so many other properties in this county, much of it was replaced with vineyards, but lichen-covered relics of heirloom apple and pear trees still dot the hillsides. We’re fortunate enough to have quite a few of these lovely old trees, which still produce some of the most delectable fruit I have ever sampled. The endangered Gravenstein is the variety that has received the most press of late, but we have other unidentified varieties as well. Gravs, as the locals call them, are one of the earliest to ripen, with green skin striated with red, and fragrant, tart-sweet flesh that is both ideal for baking and perfectly crisp for eating out of hand. Our other mystery-varieties follow a more traditional fall ripening schedule and are just as crisp but less floral, with perhaps a touch more honeyed sweetness.
The orchard isn’t extensive enough to hire a crew to harvest the fruit, so, left to our own devices, we have provided far too many apples for the enjoyment of wandering deer. This weekend I finally got around to buying a fruit-picker basket with telescoping handle to reach those higher branches, and the whole family set to work filling crates with the resulting bounty. We felt very industrious, and my guilt was assuaged just a bit.
Why guilt? I have a confession to make. With all these delicious apples falling to the ground only to become mulch or attract wasps, it may seem baffling that I actually purchase apples at all during this season, but I am a die-hard fan of a particular rare variety that we don’t grow (yet!). It’s only available for a few weeks in the early fall, doesn’t store well and is notoriously impossible to transport because it bruises so easily. But, with a name like Pink Pearl, how can a jewelry lover resist?
When we first moved to this area, I saw a hand-lettered sign with “Pink Pearl Apples” off Gravenstein Highway, and I stopped at Hales Apple Farm to investigate. This apple truly has to be seen and tasted to be believed. The outside is pearly enough, warm and golden with rosy overtones, but when you slice into the marvelous flesh you reveal a shocking, marbleized pink that is simply unreal. The pale skin is thin enough that the hot pink actually shows through somewhat, creating the pearlescent glow. I especially like tart apples, so when I took that first bite I became completely hooked. Now I look forward all year to that precious few weeks when they’re available, and my enjoyment is surely heightened by the deprivation.
My husband teases me mercilessly about this apple gluttony, but now that the Pink Pearls are gone until next August, I can redeem myself by making good use of the newly-harvested mystery apples from our own orchard. Next year, maybe we’ll plant some of my guilty favorites, but in the meantime, I’m playing with pearls of a different variety.