Moving to Utah (in the early Tertiary, if I recall correctly) took our family from the spud fields of southern Idaho, and plopped us in the middle of fruit orchards on the foothills of the Wasatch Front. There, protected from eastern winds and too-early sunlight by Mt. Timpanogos, farmers grew Bing cherries, pie cherries, peaches, apricots, and a lot of apples.
Our bus route to school was lined with orchards; missing the bus could make a wonderful experience wandering through the tended rows, finding the occasional clusters of wild asparagus (mark that down for next Sunday . . .), and discovering songbirds’ hiding places.
For a while our athletic fields abutted orchards. Late autumn football practices were sometimes made merrier when the migrant pickers took pity on us and tossed a few pippins over the fence.
In a perfect world that I imagine, orchards are close by many schools. Children get to see the blossom of the cherry trees heralding spring, and when they return to school in the fall they see the ripening apples, and then the harvesting of the apples. Time is measured, and history demonstrated, by the natural rhythms of agriculture.
How about an apple from Thomas Jefferson’s farm? You can buy the trees from the foundation that runs Monticello. In that perfect world I imagine, the orchard near the school would feature at least one tree from Tom Jefferson’s orchard, one from George Washington’s, and several would be direct descendants of Ohio Valley apple trees planted by John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed himself. When teachers discuss the farms and actions of these men, even daydreaming kids could look out the window and see history staring back at them.
For the Albemarle (or Newtown) Pippin (malus cv.) pictured here, the Monticello catalog waxes freely:
In comparing the fruits of Europe to those of America, Jefferson wrote from Paris, “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown pippin.” In 1759 Benjamin Franklin imported barrels of the fruit into London and, by 1807 it appeared on the Horticultural Society of London’s “Select List” of apples. England’s Queen Victoria once waived the import tariff for the pippin and it was said that, “they were eaten and praised by royal lips, and swallowed by many aristocratic throats. The name Albemarle Pippin first appeared on the editorial page of Richmond, Virginia’s The Southern Planter in 1843, saying “the very best pippin we know is grown in the county of Albemarle, ” which is where Monticello is located. The green-skinned, yellow-fleshed pippin is known as the Prince of Apples. It’s mouth-watering flavors actually improve with storage. This apple is self-pollinating, but planting more than one enhances production. Grows 14 to 16 feet in height. Early 1700’s.
Trees begin shipping February 26; supplies are limited. Proceeds support the restoration and education programs at Monticello. One may purchase a part of history to come live in one’s yard.