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Forgotten Fruits

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From the top of this hill in southwestern Michigan, the land rolls away in hills ruffled with apple trees, like small waves on the swells of Lake Michigan ten miles to the west. Oak, maple, sumac, and goldenrod grow in the ravines and low places between the hills, different shades of green touched with bronze. A large bird--probably a vulture--drifts away overhead.

The apples on the farther hills have familiar names like Red Delicious, Jonathan, Macintosh. But the apples Theo Grootendorst is leading me among have names much older and stranger: Maidenblush, Saint Edmund's Pippin, Sweet Russet, Hubbardston Nonesuch, Pitmaston Pineapple. There are antique-gold apples, deep-red apples, apples striped red over yellow, strange-shaped warty apples, tiny sweet apples, huge tart apples. Apples from Russia, apples from Japan. But mostly apples from England and from the early days of this country, when apple cider, apple butter, and apple pies were staples of almost every country home.

You won't find these apples in your local supermarket. A nearby orchard might have one or two. But here, near Eau Claire, Michigan, tucked into Theo Grootendorst's "museum orchard," there are well over 200 old and rare varieties. The Grootendorst family raises and sells these trees (as well as other old and rare fruit trees) through their mail-order nursery, Southmeadow Fruit Gardens. Buyers from across the country order trees from Southmeadow that they would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Among the nursery's customers is the U.S. Department of the Interior, which has bought period trees for the birthplaces of Washington and Jefferson.

These are apples whose names breathe history. Calville Blanc d'Hiver grew in the gardens of Louis XIII of France. Pomme Royale came to Rhode Island with Huguenot refugees. Thomas Jefferson planted 12 Esopus Spitzenberg trees at Monticello. George Washington favored Newtown Pippin.

But these apples are chosen today even more for their flavor than for their history; their range of flavors would astonish and delight anyone brought up on supermarket fare. Imagine never having tasted any ice cream but vanilla, and suddenly walking into a Baskin Robbins.

A century or so ago, before orchards became agribusiness, there were more varieties of apples than you could shake a branch at. In 1845, landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing listed more than 1,000 varieties in his Fruits and Fruit Trees of America. But in 1910, H.P. Gould of the U.S. Department of Agriculture counted the apples in 100 nursery catalogs and found only 472. In 1941, he counted 269. This year's Stark Brothers catalog (from a large and well-known nursery in Louisiana, Missouri) carries 21 different apple varieties.

Why did all those kinds of apples disappear or just barely hang on, mostly forgotten, in old orchards? Some didn't taste all that great, or succumbed to insects or disease. But many simply didn't fit into the modern patterns of growing and raising apples.

Small orchards, like the old corner grocery stores, are an endangered species. Large-scale supermarket chains depend on large-scale growers who can supply tons of apples. Every week. Year-round. Neither cares a pip about flavor. They want fruit that's big and bright and shiny--and virtually indestructible. They want trees that produce a good crop every year (many old apples bear best every other year), which can be picked all at once and shipped before fully ripe. Even in western Michigan, the nation's second- or third-largest fruit-growing area, most of the apples on store shelves come from the west coast.

But not everyone is content with this. "Just as a rose fancier would not limit himself to one variety of rose or a music lover to a single symphony," wrote Robert A. Nitschke in Southmeadow Fruit Gardens' first catalog, in 1961, "so a lover of choice fruits should be able to savor some of the infinite range of flavors, textures and colors and sizes that exists in the various varieties of apples or among grapes and even in the often neglected gooseberry."

That these rare apple trees are growing on this hillside is not simply a matter of chance. It's a matter of knowledge, skill, hard work, and the pleasure that three men--Robert Nitschke, Theo Grootendorst, and Herbert Teichman--get from apples long forgotten by most of the world. Perhaps it's partly a matter of chance--if the coming together of three people at just the right time can be called luck.

"FALL RUSSET--This small yellowish green or golden russet apple, often irregularly webbed with grey and dark green, was located in an old family orchard planted around 1875 in Franklin, Michigan. It was known only by the name 'Fall Russet.' Although its true identity remains uncertain, it is believed by some to be the Autumn Pomme Gris as described by Downing. Shortly after I had cut scionwood in the winter of 1956, the tree was cut down because the 'drab' appearance of the fruit made it difficult to sell. But if only his customers had stopped to taste the delicious flesh under the russet coat! This apple has at first an exceedingly high flavor, a combination of sweetness and tartness which later mellows into pearlike richness. The tree fruits heavily in clusters. Ripens middle of September."--Southmeadow Fruit Gardens catalog (Robert A. Nitschke)

In the 1950s, Robert Nitschke, a corporate lawyer at General Motors in Detroit, bought a new house with a big yard in suburban Birmingham. Although he had never gardened before, he decided to grow some apple trees. "I just thought I ought to grow the best ones," he says, "but I had a heck of a time finding them." The American Pomological Society helped him locate some rare trees from which he obtained scionwood--bits of living wood that can be grafted onto the rootstocks of other varieties. Since Nitschke had never done any grafting, he hired an orchardist to do the job. But later he learned the technique and once put 30 kinds of apples onto a single tree (not really such a good idea, he says now).

When Flower and Garden magazine printed an article about Nitschke's apples, "I got all kinds of letters--people saying, 'Where can we I find these apples?' I felt that somebody ought to provide those apples for people who wanted them." Nitschke decided to set up a business to sell hard-to-find apples. Because his private orchard grew in a meadow south of his house, he named the new enterprise Southmeadow Fruit Gardens.

He worked first with Lorne Doud of Wabash, Indiana; Doud had grafted Nitschke's early trees but was too busy raising fruit to graft, raise, and ship hundreds of baby trees. Major nurseries, like Stark Brothers in Missouri, were not interested in specialty apple trees like Jacob's Strawberry or Keswick Codlin. They wanted to be able to sell at least 1,000 of each variety per year. Then, through Michigan State University, Nitschke learned of a young nurseryman who had recently emigrated from Holland to settle in southwestern Michigan, and who was already growing old varieties of apples. His name was Theo Grootendorst.

Grootendorst's family has been in the nursery business more than 350 years. He comes from a part of Holland with "700 nurseries in one clump," as he describes it. And he trained rigorously at the Horticultural College at Boskoop. Before students were even admitted to the school, Grootendorst recalls, they had to work for a full year, the time divided between four different nurseries, keeping a daily journal of the plants they worked with, their Latin names, and what was done to each plant. A professor then graded the log to determine whether the student could get into the horticultural college. Once in school, Grootendorst and other students attended classes half days, and worked in local nurseries the rest of the time. "On your 'free' afternoon, Saturday," Grootendorst recalls, "you had to go to the [school] arboretum. You had to learn the Latin names of at least 200 species.

"They taught us that [nursery work] was a seven-day system. If you go home Friday night and come back Monday morning, the plants will be dead. It's like a farmer with cows that have to be milked Saturdays and Sundays. There are no holidays."

From a place rich in traditions of horticulture and landscaping, Grootendorst and his wife Catharina, daughter of a nurseryman, came to the midwestern U.S.--a place where, as Grootendorst says, trees were often seen as enemies ("If you turn your back, a tree will spring up"), where shopping centers sprouted from barren concrete, and where "anyone could pick up a shovel and a hoe and call himself a landscaper."

There were good reasons for the location, however. One was shipping costs. Grootendorst intended to sell plants by mail, and the midwest is closer to most of the rest of the country than, say, New Jersey or Oregon. And land downwind of a Great Lake has an ideal climate; southwestern Michigan has become a renowned fruit-growing area. Lake Michigan moderates the summers and winters along its eastern shore, making summers cooler and wetter, winters milder and snowier. (The snow can pile so deep that the ground below doesn't freeze.) And late spring frosts are rarer here than farther inland.

In 1957, the Grootendorsts bought a small house and greenhouse in Lakeside, Michigan, and began a business of propagating and growing fruit-tree rootstocks, ornamental shrubs, and fruit trees, selling them wholesale to midwestern nurseries. Grootendorst's skill, small-scale business, and interest in old apples made him the very person Robert Nitschke was looking for. In 1969 Grootendorst Nurseries began raising a few trees for Nitschke's Southmeadow Fruit Gardens (just a few varieties the first year--like Calville Blanc, Orenco, Lyman's Large Summer, Stearns, and Lady Apple). This year, Southmeadow's list includes 225 varieties of apple trees, 48 kinds of pears, and 23 peaches, as well as plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, grapes, gooseberries, currants, medlars, and quinces. (About ten years ago Nitschke turned over the entire Southmeadow business to the Grootendorsts. Nitschke still writes the descriptions of different apples in the Southmeadow catalog and grows his own collection of 110 apple varieties.)

"LADY APPLE--This exquisitely beautiful little dessert apple delights the eye as much as the palate. Small, flattish in shape, its shiny skin ranges from creamy yellow in the shade to a deep glossy crimson on the side next to the sun. Its flesh is tender, white, crisp, very juicy, refreshing and slightly perfumed, with the best of the flavor in the skin which should always be eaten. As Quintinye said, 'It may be eaten greedily at a chop with its coat all on.' Known in Europe as 'Api' or 'Pomme d'Apis,' the Lady Apple is of great antiquity. It was grown in the gardens of Louis XIII at Orleans in 1628 and was a favorite French dessert apple 'which the ladies of France carry in their pockets by reason they yield no unpleasant scent.' From the earliest days in America it has always been a fancy apple used not only for dessert at Christmas time, but also for Della Robbia wreaths and garlands of fruit. It makes a fine dwarf tree which bears heavily. Very late--November." --Southmeadow catalog

If you go looking for Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, you won't find it easily. For one thing, the Grootendorsts don't spend their time entertaining visitors: they sell their plants by mail. (Write Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, Lakeside, Michigan 49116. A price list is available for free. A catalog--no slick bright-colored job, but a compendium of detailed descriptions of old varieties of apples and other fruits--costs $8.) And Southmeadow isn't a single place, but three places. The Southmeadow business office comes disguised (there is no sign) as a summer cottage, set behind some trees in Lakeside, a small resort community along Michigan's Red Arrow Highway. The apple trees and other fruits are not grown in Lakeside, however, but 15 miles away, on a county road south of Baroda. The only sign there is the name on the mailbox. And the "museum orchard" of mature trees is in yet another place: hidden away in Herbert Teichman's Tree-Mendus Fruit U-Pick orchard near Eau Claire, ten miles farther northeast.

A glimpse of greenhouses next to a small cottage was the only clue that I had found the right spot when I arrived in Lakeside to meet Theo Grootendorst on a sunny September day. The greenhouses aren't technically "greenhouses," but Quonset huts of metal pipe and plastic. (Permanent structures of glass cost more to build and more in taxes, and make less efficient use of sunlight.) On this acre and a half, called Grootendorst Nurseries, the Grootendorst family grows not fruit trees but ornamentals like yews, junipers, and arbor vitae for sale to nurseries and landscapers. "We don't only raise fruit trees," says Grootendorst, "we're propagators." The ornamental business provides winter work for nursery employees, who otherwise would be laid off from November (when young trees have been dug up and stored) to early March (when field work can begin again).

Grootendorst has laid himself off: he no longer works for the nursery or for Southmeadow. Catherina Grootendorst is the president of Grootendorst Nurseries and Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, and, their son Peter, who graduated from horticultural school in Wisconsin, manages Southmeadow. But to call Grootendorst "retired" is ridiculous. A nurseryman doesn't retire any more than an apple tree stops putting out leaves in the spring; he can't keep his hands away from leaf and root. After 49 years in the business, Grootendorst will stand in a grove of trees apple in hand and say "Isn't it beautiful?"

"PORTER--One of the great classic American apples originating in 1840 with Rev. Samuel Porter in Massachusetts. Although tender of flesh, its beautiful pure yellow skin, uniform tapered conical shape, and its fine quality for both dessert and canning and cooking made it one of the most widely disseminated American apples of the 19th century. In its earlier editions, the Fanny Farmer Cookbook singled out Porters for mention as the variety for apple pie. Hedrick gave Porter his highest praise, 'An apple for the connoisseur, who will delight in its crisp, tender, juicy, perfumed flesh, richly flavored and sufficiently acidulous to make it one of the most refreshing of all apples.' September." --Southmeadow catalog

Because they are hybrids, apple varieties do not come "true" from seed. Let's suppose that you planted the seed of a Porter apple from a tree growing in your grandmother's backyard. The apples from that seedling would almost always be smaller and less tasty, closer to a crabapple--than the usual crisp and tender Porter. (A peach pit, on the other hand, will grow to produce fruit much closer to the parent. Many delicious backyard peaches are seedlings.)

Of course, there's the small chance that a seedling apple will turn out to be something special. Such varieties as York Imperial and Stayman Winesap began that way. But experiments require extra space, some spare time, and a wait of five to ten years for the fruit. Most people would rather know what they are getting.

Named varieties of apples are reproduced by grafting, not by seed. A new Porter (or any other) apple tree at Southmeadow doesn't simply grow from the ground. It is put together by human hands from pieces of two other trees: a small slip or bud from a variety in the museum orchard, and a rootstock. The Grootendorsts grow their own dwarfing rootstocks (which produce smaller trees) by a method of forced sprouting called stooling. A small apple tree about as thick as a thumb is laid in the ground horizontally and covered with dirt. Its branches, which now reach straight up, gradually form their own roots, and in time each branch becomes a complete little tree. After four or five years, when the stool tree has produced enough little trees to harvest, nursery workers pull them up in late autumn or early spring. Some are sold to nurseries or orchardists; others are planted in the fields to be grafted later in the season. Each will become the underground half of a new tree.

The top half of the new tree begins life as a bud. As Grootendorst phrases it, "In the armpit of each leaf [where the leaf meets the stem] there is a bud"--next year's leaf. But removed and grafted, it will become the fruiting part of a tree.

Bud grafting can be done only between spring and fall, when the tree is growing; it is best done in late summer or early fall, when the bark peels back easily from the rootstock stem. From the scionwood the nurseryman slices a thin sliver of bark, wood, and bud. He slits the stem of the rootstock, inserts the bud slice, and wraps it--not wrapping over the bud itself. When Theo Grootendorst does this it looks easy, but anyone who has tried it knows that a successful graft takes care, precision, and a bit of luck. Groups of dead sticks in the nursery rows among the tiny growing trees show that inexperienced nursery workers hadn't yet mastered the skill.

During that first season the rootstock's own branches are left on the tree. The following year the bud begins to grow and the old branches are pruned away. A new apple tree has been born.

"It's a miracle," says Grootendorst. "Who do I think I am that I could make this happen?" But orchardists have been performing this miracle for more than 2,000 years. In the second century B.C. Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder described the bud graft and other methods of grafting still used today.

Since the 1920s, orchardists have added a new wrinkle to this ancient practice with "dwarfing" rootstocks. By some yet undiscovered growth regulator, these strains of rootstock cause an apple tree to grow only 10 or 20 feet high rather than the 40 feet of standard varieties. All Southmeadow trees are grafted onto dwarf (6 to 9 feet) or semidwarf (15 feet or more) stock. An ancient apple is now adapted to the modern suburban--or even urban--yard. Dwarf trees can even grow in large containers on a sunny balcony. They need to be staked and may need some protection from cold--but imagine a Westfield Seek-No-Further living in a lakeshore high rise! An apple tree is not something you stick in the ground and forget about, like a lamppost, but with proper fertilizing, pruning, and spraying dwarf trees can bear fruit a year or two after being brought home. Standard trees may take five years or more. The smaller trees live perhaps 15 to 20 years or sometimes longer, but not the three score or more of the big ones. Quicker results and shorter lives suit modern life-styles just as smaller size fits modern yards. Do you know where you'll be in 20 years, or 50? Will your yard still be there, or will it have become a parking lot or the basement of a condominium?

While any particular tree will die, in a few years or many, through grafting an apple tree can approach immortality. You might buy a Lady Apple from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens that's a living bit of a tree that grew in the French royal gardens in 1628. It may even date back to the Roman Appius Claudius Caecus in the fourth century BC, although no one can prove it.

"COURT PENDU PLAT--An ancient apple known in the 16th century and possibly dating from Roman days. Its more than one hundred synonyms testify to its merit and the breadth of its culture at one time throughout Europe. Its name 'suspended short flat' describes a characteristic--a very flat apple with a barely perceptible stem causing it to lay tight against the branch like a peach. Its color and skin texture give it an antique appearance, much like Italian marble, bright yellow or orange flushed with rose over a fawn russet skin. The flesh is yellow, firm with a rich flavor that LeRoy, the great French pomologist, described as having an 'aftertaste of musky anise deliciously perfuming the mouth.' Often known in England as the 'Wise Apple' because of its late budding and flowering (by far the latest in the Southmeadow collection) which enables it to escape late spring frosts. Late ripening." --Southmeadow catalog

"Tree-Mendus Fruit U-Pick" says the arrow across the huge red wooden apple at Herb Teichman's orchard near Eau Claire. ("Family Fun in the Sun. Orchards & Country Store. Tours. Rent a Tree. Home of International Cherry Pit Spitting.") One charter bus is leaving, another pulling up as we arrive at the Country Store after a visit to the Southmeadow Fruit Gardens farm. A group with gray hair and yellow name tags ("Senior Prospectors Club") descend en masse with their afternoon's pickings. Store employees weigh and charge for the fruit, and pass out small free cups of cider. Inside the store trays of apples, peaches, nectarines, and other fruits entice customers to add to the fruit they picked themselves. Tour wagons complete with guides are carrying pickers through the orchard. There's a picnic area, a petting zoo, even an open-air church. Who would expect to find a "museum" of rare, antique, and odd-looking apples anywhere near this bustle and hype?

Theo Grootendorst met Herb Teichman one evening in a bar "quite a few years ago" during an annual meeting of the Michigan Horticultural Society. Teichman was excited about raising a collection of antique apples; Grootendorst needed a place to grow his trees for testing their fruit and for scionwood. They worked out an arrangement that suits both. Grootendorst provides the trees, Tree-Mendus sprays and prunes. "And we can both enjoy the fruit," says Grootendorst. Teichman has added some of the museum varieties to his own orchard, including Almata and Golden Nugget.

A passing glacier and the Lake Michigan climate have made the area around Eau Claire a good spot for an orchard. The gravel-filled hills of glacial deposits provide good drainage and air for roots. But the stony soil would be worthless for nursery beds of tiny trees like Southmeadows: Teichman has to plant his trees with an auger.

We wander through the museum orchard, where 250 trees grow on about three acres of hillside. Every tree has its name painted on the trunk. Grootendorst picks an apple here and there and cuts us each a slice. "If you're willing to eat apples with your teeth rather than your eyes, this is a lovely apple," he says, holding a brownish-gold, dull-skinned Golden Nugget.

Grootendorst shows me how apples grow on horizontal branches, not veritical ones: the angle of sunlight determines whether each bud will become a leaf or a fruit blossom. He shows me that "the color of the fruit is in the whole tree." Trees with yellow fruit have paler leaves, while the Almata, a small Russian apple whose very flesh is red, has reddish-green leaves--and its twigs are pink under the bark. (But why do Jonathans, with reddish fruit, have silvery leaves? Grootendorst says that the Jonathan is really a yellow fruit with red over it.)

From one tree Grootendorst picks a large pale green apple of a distinctive shape--somewhat flat, with rounded vertical ridges. It's Calville Blanc d'Hiver, one of the first apples sold by Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, and still a favorite of both Grootendorst and Nitschke. Nitschke writes, "This apple . . . exceeds all others in Vitamin C and graces the dessert table today as it did for King Louis XIII of France, back in 1627, preserves its marvelous flavor in cooking in all forms and . . . for pies and tarts makes beautiful, translucent pale yellow slices of exquisite flavor." But Calville Blanc is not ready to eat in September, or for that matter in October, when it is usually picked. It will grow sweeter in storage. "Keep it for a month or two," advises Grootendorst. Its flavor is said to reach its peak by Christmas.

On one hillside Grootendorst has planted several varieties of cider apples: Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Medaille d'Or, Tremblett's Bitter, and Dabinett. The somewhat bitter flavor of these apples is important for classic vintage cider (made from just one variety, unlike ordinary cider, which is made from a mix of whatever apples are on hand). A few centuries ago, in a country unsuited for wine grapes, hard cider was the drink of British taverns. And in colonial New England most apples were turned into cider--not from named varieties like these, but from orchards of random seedlings. Some of those seedlings, however, became good-to-eat varieties in their own right, like Roxbury Russet, Rhode Island Greening, and Newtown Pippin.

"An apple does more good for your teeth than if you floss," Grootendorst instructs. "They have calcium, pectin, vitamins, bulk; they're nonfattening and good for your teeth, too. You have to chew them--too many of the foods we eat are too soft; they're all ready for us to swallow."

Crunching such a delectable treat as a Pitmaston Pineapple, an old "sweetmeat" --or small, sweet apple--is the most enjoyable exercise I've come across, and I'm ready to plant a whole orchard of my own, if I can find a place to put it.

On our way out of the orchard, we stop by a grove of Tree-Mendus peach trees. Grootendorst is looking for some late Belle of Georgia peaches to take home. Teichman comes by in his pickup, CB in back pocket. He helps look for the peaches, and then shows Grootendorst a small bag of striped reddish-over-yellow apples labeled "Fall Stripe." They're from a friend in Wisconsin. "He says these are a good apple," says Teichman and adds that the fellow in Wisconsin would let Grootendorst have cuttings to graft.

A group is ready to come in from picking, and the radio in Teichman's pocket asks, "Shall I start the waffles?" Teichman says yes, and gets into his truck to head back to the store.

Grootendorst explains to me that he'll be happy to graft the apple for Teichman; that's part of their deal. But he would not include this Fall Stripe in his collection just because someone says that's what it is.

To authenticate a tree, Grootendorst would first consult such apple references as U.P. Hedrick's Fruits for the Home Gardener (1944), S.A. Beach's The Apples of New York State (1903), Andrew Jackson Downing's The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America (1845), and William Coxe's A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees in the United States, and of the Management of Orchards and Cider (1817). He would then graft and grow the tree to see if the tree and its fruit matched the authorities' description.

"It's unbelievable how meticulous they were. They describe how the tree grows--its leaves, its branches, its bark, when it blooms, when it ripens, how the little stem comes out of the apple . . ." Some apple stems are short, some long, some red, some russet. The apple itself may be marked by a pattern of white dots, which differs from one variety to another. An apple collector can and must rely on the precision of such descriptions. There often is no other way to know. There is no official committee to stamp an apple "certified to be a genuine Ribston Pippin." And the buyer must rely on the integrity of the nurseryman. "We invite anybody to help us," says Grootendorst. "We'll be glad--not to defend [our naming of a variety] but to listen to arguments against it."

In the Southmeadow catalog, Robert Nitschke recounts the search for a famous old apple from Ontario County, New York--Early Joe. The nursery obtained and grafted scionwood from several sources, but the resulting apples were clearly not true. "Finally, after many years, an apple called Joe Precoce ('precoce' meaning 'early' in French.) was found in Oklahoma--an unlikely place to find an apple of New York origin, and even more unlikely to find in a French version. When it fruited it matched perfectly the only colored illustration ever published of Early Joe . . . which appeared of all places in a one hundred year old Dutch book, Nederlandsche Flora en Pomona."

To be worth the time spent in grafting, growing, and fruiting, a possible antique apple must have something going for it besides an old name--like especially good flavor, or at least a good story. As Grootendorst says, "I already have 250 apples."

The odd partnership between the high-powered U-Pick orchard and the grove of antique apple trees, away from the eager feet and hands of the tourists, seems to work well. Grootendorst raises and sells young trees; Teichman cares for mature trees and sells fruit. To Grootendorst, the apples are first of all a way to test the authenticity of a variety; the trees are then a source of scionwood for new trees. To Teichman each variety is a potential addition to his own orchard, an added tourist attraction.

Beneath their contrasting styles and specialties, in some ways the two enterprises are not that different. Both depend on a culture where an apple is a pleasure, not a necessity. The people who buy a Roxbury Russet tree or a Calville Blanc d'Hiver, like those who spend an afternoon at Tree-Mendus Fruit, are not bound by the exigencies of the pioneer families who dried apples, baked them, made them into cider and apple butter, and ate them all winter when other fruits were gone--or by those of commercial orchardists today, who must ship apples by the hundreds of thousands at prices they can't control.

A bite of Teichman's or Grootendorst's fruit tastes better than an apple bought at the grocery store, and not just because it's fresh from the tree and of a better-tasting variety. Its flavor is enriched by childhood memories or by dreams of other places and times. And there's a special pleasure in picking fruit--from a tree of your own, or a tree that's yours just for the afternoon --air rich with the smell of apples, sun shining, breeze rustling the leaves. "I've always been surprised at the number of professional men and women who are fruit growers," writes Robert Nitschke. "They can buy the best there is in the market, but choose to grow their own."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Mike Tappin.

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