Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The apple blossom

I returned to the island yesterday after about ten days in Providence. "The Apple Blossom" is the name of a grand old fiddle tune from Kentucky's Cumberland Plateau. Source musicians include Isham Monday of Cloyd's Ridge, near Tompkinsville, recorded in 1959 at home by John Newport and D.K. Wilgus; and Jim Bowles, recorded by Wilgus and a dozen years later by Bruce Greene. And here on the island the blossoms are far enough advanced for me to tell that it will be an above average blossom year. Among the trees that are covered with bloom are the Red Astrichan (or Astrachan), an early apple that ripens around September 1, or rather falls from the tree around then not fully ripe. It's excellent for sauce but it'll be gone by come cider time around Columbus Day. Another is the large, unnamed, 50- to 75-year-old tree in the cluster behind the house; the apples are medium sized, round to oblate, green with a red blush, come in at cider pressing time, and although the flavor is not outstanding it is good and mild, blending well with the acidic, flavorful apples. Many other trees will have a good blossom: the Prima, the Dutchess, the unnamed tree at the rear of the orchard that is Marta's favorite, the Liberty, the Winesap. Even the Golden Russet and the Baldwin have more than usual--though that's not saying much. Pollination and blossom-set is next. Bees are endangered these days due to a virus, a tragic story, but in this location they have been sufficient over the years--so far, so good. A stretch of rainy weather at blossom time would be troublesome, and lessen pollination; but although rain is predicted for the next two days, the long weekend is forecast to be sunny, warm, and dry, which should be perfect for pollination. I noted that the blossoms are about five to seven days earlier than usual this year, perhaps due to global warming. 

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