When I was growing up in the late 1970’s we lived a few miles away from a retail orchard, and from summer until winter a stop at the orchard concluded the weekly grocery run. Pears were my favorite fruit at the time, and as a preschooler I always enjoyed giving the cashier a nickel and having it transform almost magically into a pear and a piece of honey candy. Over the years, my enjoyment of fruit declined as I found myself confronted with too many rock hard pears and mealy but beautiful Red Delicious apples out of the supermarket, neither of which could compete with my memories of what fruit should taste like. While I would occasionally eat fruit in hope of finding some hint of flavor, I generally came to exclude fruit from my diet.
My interest in fruit was reawakened when I visited some friends in Germany. They lived near the town of Bad Dürkheim in Rheinland-Pfalz, which is in the middle of a wine growing region tucked between the fields of the Rhine plain and the hills of the Pfälzerwald forest, and I was visiting just as the grapes were being harvested. Having been used to “Red” or “White” grapes with the occasional Concord thrown in for good measure, I was amazed by the variety to be observed in the vineyards, entranced by the ancient vines growing on the sides of houses and along wires strung across open courtyards, and enthralled by the taste of perfectly ripe grapes straight off the vine. One afternoon while out hiking my friend pulled an apple from his backpack and offered me a slice, and for the first time in years I found myself eating an apple that lived up to my expectations. It turned out to be the variety “Elstar” and had been grown in an orchard just a few miles away where the conditions were not as good for grapes but excellent for tree fruit.
Knowing that good fruit did still exist, I began to pay more attention to the variety and condition of fruit I selected at the grocery. I also began to consider growing my own if and when I had the space to do so.