My daughter Madeline visited last weekend from Maryland. You can never have too many apples so we went apple picking. We and the other pickers climbed into a wagon to be taken to the site by tractor. Although apple picking tends to be easy and the trees are low and do not require climbing, I experienced more stress on my back, walking amid the trees, than I hoped for. But we each picked an eight- quart bag of apples.
As we picked and chatted, I remembered my childhood when I learned how to properly pick.
During World War II, federal agencies were established to alleviate labor shortages. Students were hired to work as agricultural assistants on their school breaks. A friend of mine had spent a summer picking fruit in California. She taught me how to pick with a bucket around my neck to keep both hands free for picking. The term that was used was “Puckin.”
As an adolescent, I picked lots of fruit in the woods near my parents’ summer home in Middletown, New York. The fruit was probably planted and cultivated at one time, but I remember creeping through briers, escorted by mosquitoes to the various spots. I was rewarded with wonderful blackberries, black raspberries and huckleberries. The huckleberries, though delicious, were a lot smaller than the blueberries that we have today and we didn’t fill a pot too quickly. Wild strawberries grew near our house; they were sweet but very small. We spent our summers making pies and jam. I can still see my mother’s home -canned berries glistening like jewels on top of her Thanksgiving fruit cup. Although I make my pies and jam pretty much the way my mom did, I froze berries for mid-winter treats.
I demonstrated my “puckin” skills when we visited farms with our children. While we had to crawl on our knees for the strawberries, most fruits are planted in neat rows with many varieties of plump berries, easy to pick. It doesn’t take long to “puck” a container of blueberries today. Our own crabapples required more work, but provided us with marvelous jam and applesauce through the entire winter.
On the way back to the car, the tram drove past fields of corn and other fall crops, the tangy fragrance of apples wafting in the crisp October breeze during the ride. A visit to an orchard is not complete without a stop at the farm market. We “picked“ up a few things.
A friend of mine said that growing old was a series of “Giving up.” Am I giving up apple picking? I don’t think so!