Sex And Graft

IMG_2609BEGINNING TODAY and for the next two weeks, the e-book of America’s Apple can be downloaded for the discounted price of $2.99 (regularly $9.99). The e-book can be purchased through Amazon for Kindle or as a Barnes & Noble’s Nook Book. The hardcover is available through these sites, numerous bookstores and orchard stores, and Silver Street Media.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1, “Sex and Graft (the art of growing apples)”:

A word of caution to those entering an apple orchard for the first time: the experience can be overwhelming. Apples are seductive; anyone who has ever spent time where apples are grown knows why they symbolize temptation in the story of Adam and Eve. Apples are irresistible, appealing to all the senses.

The sheer scale and conceit of the orchard is impressive, humans harnessing nature’s wildness in a symmetrical, leafy grid. Even dwarf trees tower over the average person, and standard-size trees, while planted rarely these days, still dominate many orchards. Their 15- to 30-foot canopies gently swallow up the visitor in a colorful, symmetrical forest running up hills or down gentle slopes, often continuing as far as the eye can see.

Entering the orchard is like walking into a well-proportioned painting, with the view broken into three roughly equal horizontal bands. Beneath your feet are the mixed greens of grasses carpeting the orchard floor; above is blue sky. The middle is dominated by the deep, dense greens of the trees, and from this leafy sea bursts thousands of pieces of round and oblong fruit in hues ranging from burgundy to gold to lime. Some apples are a single, solid color, some striped or russeted (having a brownish skin and rough texture), and many are a kaleidoscopic mix of shades. Many orchards are planted high on hillsides; when you look up from picking you take in a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

If the orchard experience were strictly visual, its grandeur alone would captivate. But these orderly rows of apple trees work on all the senses. The orchard is a quiet place. Noise is muffled within the confines of grass and trees, distant from traffic. The main sound is the trilling and chirping of songbirds. The orchard invites contemplation.

The fragrance is intoxicating. While some apple varieties are more aromatic than others, the collective scent transmitted by thousands of pieces of hanging fruit, mixed with soil and fresh air, is an olfactory rush.

The best is yet to come: the tactile pleasure as your hand reaches around a ripe apple and twists it gently off the tree. When you sink your teeth into the apple with a loud, satisfying crunch, it is as if all the orchard’s sensory pleasures are distilled in that single bite: the soft crunch, the heady aroma, the explosion of flavors, the rush of juice, the intense, brilliant colors of the outer skin contrasting with the creamy white, yellow, or lime-green flesh. 

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