Pig in a Poke IV

GARY SAUNDERS news@saltwire.com @Saltwirenetwork



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“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” From childhood up we've heard this saying. Not that our parents had anything against doctors. Nor do we in these COVID days when they're so scarce hereabouts and so overworked. Another saying, new to me, goes: “Eat an apple on going to bed/and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” Is there any truth in those maxims? Yes, says the UK'S Grange Book Pig in a Poke (2003), where I found them, adding, “It may be an early forerunner of the current belief among dietitians that our health improves when we eat five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables every day.” That's good enough for me. And the more reason for me to eat apples this year, when our overheated, yo-yo weather caused an uptick in apple maggots, which in turn caused millions to drop prematurely. To break the insect cycle we're told to pick up drops right away, but I couldn't keep up. And most of those I did salvage had already been invaded by the maggot. Which, having dined on the sweet flesh, dropped off and was now safely underground, ready to repeat the cycle next year. Unfortunately, one can eat only so many apples. I've already told you here how we'd converted hundreds into sauce and pies. But for optimum health benefits, one should eat them raw. We did have some help from the birds. Every third downed apple showed peck marks from crows and sparrows which, of course, caused rot to set in. Interestingly, the crows went for the seeds; seedy crow poop being one of nature's strategies for spreading apple trees. (Did you know that birds, unlike most lower mammals, can see colour and are mostly attracted to red and yellow fruit? Not just apples, but the small red berries of mountain-ash, wild cherry and cranberry, leaving the blues and greens - e.g., plums - for chipmunks, foxes, etc.?) All this apple talk reminds me of grafting. Not the criminal kind which bad characters practice, but the horticultural kind. That's where you splice a live twig (called a scion) from a desirable type onto another type. If the scion ‘takes,’ you get two kinds from the same tree. I tried that years ago. My scions came from a wild local tree yielding lovely apples, but I forgot to flag my graft. Next March, routinely pruning our trees, I accidentally removed that branch. Not bright. But then I heard a grafting story that made me feel better. Seems a big blow had toppled but not killed a local farmer's old Baxter apple tree. He didn't much care, for its fruit was too tough and tart for eating, good only for baking and sauce. Sometime later, the farmer, hearing of a source of superior scions, grafted some onto this fallen tree. However, when the new apples appeared a couple of years later, he got a surprise; they were also — you guessed it — Baxters.