(HOST) Even though she can see a little autumn yellow on the apple tree, commentator Anne Averyt says there is still a lot of summer to celebrate in the Green Mountains
(AVERYT) It’s the first sign of fall, says my friend Tom, farmer of the many acre garden – the Yellow Transparent. Four motley, misshapen apples sit sunning on his deck table. He’s just picked them, and I marvel at a mid-summer apple harvest. It’s an old brand apple, Tom tells me, one that ripens and passes so quickly it’s easy to overlook them. They aren’t good for much, he adds, except applesauce and the first apple pie.
Fresh apple pie in midsummer sounds pretty good to me, I tell him, and he says you need to make it while the early apples are still tart, not yet completely ripe. Tom’s wife grew up on a farm in northern Vermont, stone throwing distance from Canada. She remembers picking all varieties of wild apples as a kid.
Because the trees weren’t tended, the apples were often small and gnarled, pocked with brown spots that indicated possible worm inhabitants. You had to eat around the brown spots, she recalled, “…and before you swallowed you needed to check to make sure you hadn’t bitten into a worm or half of one. If you did, you just spit it out and kept on eating.”
To me it sounded like a 1950s vignette straight out of the new mega-movie The Tree of Life.
Summer is in full swing all around the back deck of my friends, the proprietors of the many-acre garden. Nestled under the eve of their upper deck is the soon-to-be vacated nest of baby robins, and by this weekend more vegetables will be ready to begin harvesting. “The end of store-bought produce is upon us,” Tom announces with satisfaction.
We are sitting around the outside table, feasting on early chard and cucumbers, the first grilled zucchini of the summer, and fresh chives and dill sprinkled on our baked potatoes. The lanky green beans are ready for picking, and growing fat in brown earth are the onions, potatoes and beets. Already, the incredibly delicious asparagus is over; tall willowy stalks are the only remaining evidence of good eating.
The deck at the many-acre plot looks east, and the rolling Greens sit in the distance, their presence a quiet statement. It’s easier to paint summer in Vermont than to describe it – the colors are lush and the palate is verdant. Ireland may be called emerald, but I don’t think anywhere else dances a green jig quite the way Vermont does.
Recently, I returned to Vermont after a brief foray into the concrete fields of Philadelphia. As the plane eased through the clouds, seeming to ride on a gentle wind, the green mountains rolled and gently peaked, then sank deep into green, green valleys. Small lakes with irregular edges dotted the patchwork earth-quilt beneath me; and Camel’s Hump sat majestic and sphinx-like, presiding over it all. Vermont in summer: I knew I was home.