By Anastasia Dyakovskaya
The domesticated apple (Malus domestica) originated from the wild apples (Malus sieversii) of the forests surrounding Kazakhstan’s capital city Almaty, meaning “father of the apple.” Thanks to the nearby silk route, the apples were carried throughout Europe and Asia and thus spread around the world.
Last century those forests spanned over 125,000 acres; today only 10,000 still stand (the Soviets wiped out most of it before 1991, and now Kazakhstan’s oil wealth has encouraged luxury home construction). What’s left is still filled with trees carrying several thousands of different kinds of apples. These aged apple trees, reach heights of sixty feet and bear apples and pears that would most likely be unrecognizable to the American eye.
We’re used to the perfect apple – round, sweet, hard, and completely satisfying – but this is not the same fruit as that of its ancestors. The apples we know and buy today (think Red and Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Fuji, and Gala) are only a handful of thousands of different varieties that, due to certain seemingly unattractive qualities such as flaws in color and shape, and altered flavor, are simply not produced.
Modern apple growers essentially clone the few popular apples through an ancient method called grafting. Instead of allowing for the apple’s innate sexual reproduction processes (in which each and every seed possesses the potential to produce an apple tree not at all reminiscent of its parent, and is completely new and unique) the growers plant the seeds and allow them to grow roots. Just when the stem appears above ground, it is cut with room enough to attach a twig from the desired apple tree. After some time, the two grow together and form the tree of the grower’s will.
Almost all of the apples we eat are produced in this manner. Our reliance on these methods has created some difficulties for the apple species. Lacking any genetic diversity, our apple trees have lost most, if not all, resistance to the insects that pray on them. Uncultivated trees co-evolve with their surroundings, each generation building new immunities and ways in which to co-exist. Since we have stripped our apple trees of this ability, apple farmers have resorted to spraying their crops up to ten times per year with harmful pesticides (and much more in some countries). Additionally, more and more apple diseases have been attacking trees, and in some cases wiping out whole crops.
Let’s think back to a time when this wasn’t the norm. Back when most of America was still the unexplored West, and when John Chapman – better known as Johnny Appleseed – still roamed the forests of Pennsylvania and Ohio. He is remembered, among all of his tales and lore, for collecting and spreading apple seeds almost everywhere he went. His trees grew all the way from Massachusetts through Indiana, even though most of them yielded fruit known as ‘spitters’ – apples sour to the taste. This didn’t affect Chapman’s business, however, because his (and almost all apples until the turn of the 20th century) were used to produce cider.
In fact, until Prohibition, almost all apple trees were grown to make cider. Since the trees weren’t grafted the fruit was all too sour, and only suitable for cider. How, then, did our image of the all-American, healthy, happy apple come to be? In the early 1900s the suffering apple industry, losing sales as the temperance movement took hold, came up with the little-known phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Hence forth only the sweetest and most perfect specimens of apples began to be produced, and the fruit became a staple of the American diet. The ramifications of this ongoing production, which can be seen as a forced halting of the apple’s evolution, once again threaten the industry as well as our apple supply. Now growers and scientists are looking for help from the apple’s Kazakh ancestors, whose wild apples still grow, uncultivated and disease-free.
To learn more about the apple’s history, be sure to check out The Botany of Desire By Michael Pollan
By Sophia Brittan
Last week I invited some friends over for a local cheese tasting to be accompanied by Eve’s Cidery Bittersweet Cider. I selected six cheeses from different farms around the Northeast. We tried Lively Run Goat Dairy’s Cayuga Blue, Bobolink’s Aged Cheddar, Patches of Star’s Lightly Salted Fresh Chèvre, Twig Farm’s Goat Tomme, and 3 Corner Field Farm’s Frère Fumant and Shushan Snow. The point of the cheese tasting was to delve more in depth into the flavors of the artesian cheeses of our region, exploring their textures and variations according to where they are from. My friends are fromage fanatics, so it was great to have their seasoned palates tasting along with me. The end result was that we got to know 6 cheeses that we might not have tried before. And the cheeses that we had tried, we explored their flavors more closely. To accompany the cheeses I served Bread Alone’s Multigrain Baguette (a new favorite), along with fresh slices of Golden Russet apples, Concord grapes, husk cherries, quince compote, and almonds mixed with honey. I have to say that I might have a thing or two to learn about putting together a cheese plate, as it could have been a bit more diverse- so I look forward to learning even more about that part of it.
We set it up so that everyone wrote notes on the same sheet for each cheese. We tried each cheese with the different accompaniments and the cider. We were open about sharing notes and talking about why or why not we liked the different cheeses. The chèvre was well liked- it was mild and creamy, almost as if it were a cream cheese/chèvre. The next mildest was definitely the Goat Tomme. It went well with all of the accompaniments, and seemed like a nice cheese that would incorporate well with fall recipes. The Cayuga Blue was one of the favorites. The “blue” flavor does not dominate the palate, and has a medium sharpness that gives it great flavor without being too strong. Even those among us who don’t like blue cheese easily fell in love. The Bobolink Aged Cheddar was an interesting one. Everyone agreed that it was “really sharp”, and had a strong aftertaste, but loved the way it paired with the fruit and the cider. The last two were the Fumant and the Shushan Snow. The Frère Fumant was applauded all around. It has a great smoked flavor, similar to the type of Spanish Basque cheese it takes after. However, the Shushan Snow was the all around winner. People said it was one of the best cheeses they had ever tasted. They loved its “incredible creaminess” and subtle taste. It did not go well with the grapes at all, but was a great match for the cider.
The cheese tasting was a great way to spend the afternoon together. We are not professional cheese-tasters or conosseurs of any high degree, but we love cheese. It was great to introduce my friends to more regional cheeses and to learn what they liked and disliked. I encourage you all to buy a bunch of cheeses and some cider and do your own tasting as well.
Here are short descriptions of the cheeses and the farms where they come from:
Lively Run Goat Dairy is a family farm located in Interlaken, NY, in the heart of the Finger Lakes. Their Cayuga Blue is a great blue cheese for beginners to try, as the texture is perfectly creamy, and the blue does not dominate the flavor.
Twig Farm is a goat dairy farm located in West Cornwall, VT. They specialize in raw aged goats milk cheeses using traditional methods and equipment. Their Tomme is aged for 80 days, and is semi-hard in texture.
Bobolink Dairy produces 100% grass-fed, raw cow’s milk cheeses in New Jersey. Their cheeses are strong and robust. The cheddar was considered “really sharp”, and paired very well with all of the accompaniments.
Patches of Star is another goat dairy located in Nazareth, PA. They have fresh chevres, fetas, and halloumi cheese, as well as yogurts.
3 Corner Field Farm is a Sheep Dairy located in Northeastern New York, near the Vermont Border in the Green Mountains. They practice organic farming methods, and the sheep feed on grass, clover, and alfalfa exclusively.
By Emma Piper-Burket
The Marcellus Shale, spanning 8 states in the Appalachian Basin-- including the area in upstate New York where Eve's Cidery is based, contains an estimated 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (or enough gas to supply US energy needs for 2 years). Until recently, the technology did not exist to access the gas but now energy companies have found a way and are actively pursuing leases to drill into the land using a method called hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing requires millions of gallons of water and uses toxic chemicals to drill up to 9,000 feet to extract the gas- the environmental risks have not been fully addressed but it would pose a severe threat to several key watersheds not to mention toxic chemical run off in local communities. Though plans are underway to proceed with the drilling, the issue is largely under reported in the media. The articles and public outcry that do arise are largely connected to the threats such drilling poses to the New York City watershed, and the problems are often simplified to a conflict between the needs of the city overpowering economic needs upstate. In reality the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing run much deeper, there are also countless farms, communities and livelihoods that would be adversely affected.
For More Information:
A short film on making a local meal from our friends at Tamarack Media in Vermont:
At Slow Food Nation, we met Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin whose recent film "Good Food" is making the festival circuit. Good Food is about sustainable food and agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. Visit their website for screening & ordering information.
By Anastasia Dyakovskaya
At midnight, when the cattle are sleeping,
On my saddle I pillow my head,
And up at the heavens lie peeping
From out of my cold grassy bed;--
Often and often I wondered,
At night when lying alone,
If every bright star up yonder
Is a big peopled world like our own.
-excerpt from The Cowboy’s Meditation
When we think of poetry it’s not often that we conjure up the image of a cowboy. Try again. This time, the cowboy you see in your mind’s eye, bobbing in his saddle or crouching next to a fire, isn’t just a cowboy. He is a thinker and an artist. You don’t have to be a cowboy to write cowboy poetry, but it certainly does help, as these poems offer a rare glimpse of first-hand encounters with the romanticized realities of a cowboy – or girl’s – western life.
Cowboy poetry is still a vibrant and evolving literary form today because cowboys are still carrying out the same necessary functions that they have throughout their history. The origins of what we now consider a typical cowboy lay in medieval Spain, where vaqueros (literally translated as cowboys) were employed to herd cattle over vast expanses of land. When the Conquistadors and other Spaniards reached the Americas during the 16th century, so too did this practice. It was not until the second half of the 19th century, however, when the ongoing encounters and exchange among American settlers and Hispanic and Native American vaqueros finally merged into something new: what we now know as the traditional American cowboy.
The age-old livelihoods of this new generation are what provided their pens and paper with subject matter – ranch work, the tending of the animals, the natural surroundings of the American West, memory and nostalgia, and a description of western life in general. In its structure, though, cowboy poetry tends to be somewhat limited, as most popular poets have remained within the guidelines of classical rhyming verse. More often than not, this is because these poems are meant to be recited or put to music. Nevertheless, there are also a number of cowboy poets who break this form and there continues to be a boundless variety of work.
There are many American cowboys today that still take this genre quite seriously and that continue to contribute their talents to the field. For more information, please visit: