Wild Apples: Foraging the Familiar

It’s been a long while since my last entry, in part because of my non-weblog obligations, and in part because I was hoping to fix the digital camera upon which I’d saved the pictures of my apple harvest.  The camera is done for, but fortunately, my loyal readers should know what an apple looks like.

Finding Apples
Michigan is apple country, so it’s not hard to find a wild apple tree.  Keeping an eye on the highwayside while driving should turn up a few apple trees, and a single tree should supply enough apples for the beginning forager’s needs.  It’s easiest to wait until the trees have fruited to identify them.

I found my tree growing in the middle of the grounds of an apartment complex behind the neighborhood Blockbuster.  To be honest, I think it’s just a Golden Delicious that has gone feral.

Harvesting Apples

I pulled an apple off to taste-test for ripeness.  When they were ready to go, I pulled them off until my bushel basket was full.  It’s times like these I wonder if I need to stick to my finding-harvesting-preparing-eating format for foraged food entries.

Preparing Apples
I put a little effort into picking apples that weren’t particularly wormy, but they all were a little more damaged than I’d enjoy eating out-of-hand.  After chopping one up, with the intention of making a cobbler or something, I discovered that making anything but applesauce wasn’t really worth the effort—by the time the apple was peeled (a pain with such small apples) and cored, there just wasn’t a lot left.

When I’ve made applesauce in the past, using commercially-produced apples, I peeled and cored them, simmered them over the stove, then mashed the cooked apples, but that didn’t work with whole apples.  After several frustrating attempts to make do with the implements I had in my kitchen—at one time I ran the apples through a meat grinder, then tried to push them through a colander—I swallowed my pride and purchased a Foley food mill.  It made all the difference, and I’ve used it for processing tomatoes since then.  It’s a human-powered technological marvel, and I’d recommend you pick one up if you find it used—you’ll find uses for it.  By the end of my bushel full of tiny wild apples, I was roughly chopping the apples, cooking them down a bit, then running them through the food mill with the fine plate on—the coarse plate let the seeds through.

Eating Apples

I tried a few of these apples eaten out-of-hand, and they tasted a lot like Golden Delicious, but they were too small and insect-bitten to be a pleasurable hand fruit.  I haven’t come up with a better way to eat them than in applesauce form.  I’ve been adding applesauce to cooked garden squash, though, and it’s a great way to spice up squash, right about when you’re getting sick of it.

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