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I’m not a milk glass collector, although there are many people who are, but I do occasionally pick up a particularly pretty piece when I can put it to some practical use. Living in a small cottage means that what comes into the house must serve some purpose, but I didn’t hesitate when I saw this dish in the shape of a woman’s open hands. I knew it would be perfect for any number of things: rings and other jewelry, after dinner mints, keys, and more.
Or, perhaps, for showcasing an object. Like a single ripe cherry.
One of the best things about living in this part of the country is access to the dark, sweet, cherries that pour into the markets each summer and cherries are my favorite fruit.
We drive to the cherry orchards at Green Bluff and pick them right off the tree and I fill freezer bags with pitted cherries to last us through the winter. And, for as long as they last at the grocery store, I can’t resist bringing them home. They are, to me, the taste of summer and a sweet benefit of our hot, dry, summers and cold winters. During the season, especially a particularly abundant season like we’ve had this year, there is always a bowl filled with cherries in the refrigerator. At the end of the day or on a lazy Sunday morning, I like nothing better than sitting in a shaded spot in the garden with the cherry bowl and a good book.
I brought home another bag yesterday and I noticed there were only a few left in the store. I packed a few for our picnic at the Spokane Symphony Soiree on the Edge concert at Arbor Crest Winery last night and I’ve been nibbling on them this morning until there was only one left.
I suppose it’s possible this might be the last fresh cherry I’ll have until next summer so I dropped the remaining cherry into the palms of the open hands of the milk glass tray I'd just brought home. Perfect. The cool white glass was a good background for the dark, satiny, fruit.
Tomorrow the tray will be on my dressing table, holding my watch and the silver bracelets I pick up on my travels. But this morning the hands frame another favorite thing: the sweet bounty of the a Northwest orchard.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
When I was a child, you couldn’t have paid me to eat an apple. The bright red picture-perfect fruit was always disappointing. The waxy skin was tough and bitter and the inside was bland. I didn’t like the way the fruit felt in my mouth as I chewed. The Red Delicious apples that were in the grocery store, on my lunch tray at school or in the fruit bowl in the kitchen at home were the Kardashians of fruit: Pretty to look at but not much more than that.
It wasn’t until years later when I discovered other varieties, the Macintosh, the Gala and Fuji, the Braeburn and Honeycrisp, that I became an apple fan. The exact opposite of the apples I’d hated as a child, they were crisp and sweet and heavy with juice and I kept them in the fruit bowl and packed them in my own children’s lunches. I baked them, and made apple sauce. I sliced them, browned them in butter and sprinkled the caramelized slices with cinnamon before serving them on cool autumn nights. Once in a while I made a pie.
I began to hear more about heirloom apples, varieties that were old and in danger of disappearing completely, and the growers who were working hard to save them. It was hard to imagine that there had once been so many kinds of apple and some had disappeared completely while we were engineering fruit solely for appearance and durability.
But visiting the Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska, I took the Discovery Ride around the farm, a 45-minute narrated wagon ride behind a tractor. We learned the unique story of the farm, the history of Arbor Day and the work of the Arbor Day Foundation, before stopping in front of the Preservation Orchard.
“Now, this,” our guide Carol told us, “is a special place.”
As she showed us the rows of heirloom apple trees, some still heavy with beautiful fruit, she talked about the farm’s dedication to preserving the old, and in some cases endangered, varieties. Some of the trees were marked and I read the names: Wheeler’s Golden Russet, Old Nonpariel, and Raine de Reinette.
There were others: the Wolf River apple, an apple so big one was enough for a pie. The Arkansas Black, with its distinctive purple color, and Esopus Spitzenburg, the orange-colored apple that was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite.
We were invited to choose an apple from any tree and I wanted to choose wisely, so I took my time, walking slowly between the rows of trees. I finally decided on an Opalescent. I liked the tree for it’s toughness, its branches had been damaged but the tree had borne well in spite of the injury, and, to be honest, I was intrigued by the oddly-elegant name. I reached up, let the apple rest lightly in my palm, and twisted it gently. The ripe fruit fell into my hand and I admired it for a moment before I took a bite.
The apple was dense and crisp and the flavor was surprisingly delicate, with just a hint of violets and strawberries. It probably wasn’t the rarest in the Preservation Orchard but it was a good choice for me.
Maybe that’s what is most important about places like the Arbor Day Farm Preservation Orchard. These trees and their fruit are part of our history. Our story. They are worth saving and sharing. You shouldn’t have to be all grown up before you taste something so good.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Phillips (pictured), who owns the Farm Fresh Fruit stand at 10 S. Argonne Road, recently paid a hefty fine for violating the terms of his temporary use permit last fall. It was one in a series of complaints that have been filed against the fruit stand, though Phillips places the blame for many of the complaints on a neighbor he has been feuding with for years. Phillips gets a temporary use permit every year, which allows him to operate his fruit stand for six months. City of Spokane Valley code enforcement officers noticed Phillips was still open on Sept. 3, after his permit had expired, and fined him $1,000. According to city records it was his fourth offense. On Sept. 13 he was still open and was fined again, this time for $5,000/Nina Culver, SR. More here.
Question: Where do you buy your fruit?