“Mama, I woke up at 3:19 this morning!” my 8-year-old daughter announces to my wife. My wife, who has the superhuman ability to raise just the end of one eyebrow as if tugged on an invisible string, looks over her newspaper. “And?” she says, waiting. “So I couldn’t go back to sleep,” she continues breathlessly, “and I thought it would be fun to have a shadow puppet show. So I took my flashlight under the covers so I wouldn’t wake up anyone. I did a snail and a bunny, and then I thought about doing the Loch Ness Monster, but I didn’t want to scare myself in case I went swimming in the lake at Camp Mather.” I can understand her concern. The worries we create for ourselves are often weightier than reality. And so it goes sometimes with the appearance of heirloom fruit.
This week on the west coast, we are featuring Gravenstein Apples. The Gravenstein is a variety that we consider an heirloom or heritage, apple. It can be irregular in shape, size, and texture. Gravs are squat, tart apples that don’t have much of a stem so they grow close to the branch, which can give them some russetting (slightly-rough greenish-brown skin) on the top. Russetting is normal and nothing to be afraid of in the shadow puppet world of fruit.

The Gravenstein originated in Denmark and was brought to Northern California, possibly, by Russians who explored the coast in the early 1800s. SlowFood USA declared the Gravenstein a “heritage food” in 2005 and included it in their Ark of Taste-foods that are in danger of being lost. Where there used to be thousands of acres of Gravensteins growing in Northern California, there are now only about a dozen small farms. When first picked the color under the red stripping is green. At this stage, the apple is firm and tart, but if you leave it out for a few days the green background color begins to mellow into yellow, and a smooth sweetness will weave in with the tart, and taste positively Gravin-ey.

This week on the east coast, we are proud to bring you Ginger Gold Apples from Beechwood Orchards. They have a light green and yellowish color; look like a delicious golden apple and are well balanced with both tart and sweet. Legend has it that this apple was the result of Hurricane Camille. In 1969 a flood wiped out a Winesap Apple orchard in Virginia. When the farmer went to inspect his trees, he found that one of the remaining survivors was throwing off yellow apples rather than red ones. Although it’s most likely that this hybrid had already been there, it could be that the shadow of a hurricane cast against the horizon scared the tree into mutation.

To see this week’s cast of fruit puppet players go to and click on In The Mix.

Enjoy and be fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt

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