Book Beat: Apples and Huckleberries

Submitted by S. Wallin on Mon, 08/01/2022 - 10:54

I grew up on a little farm a few miles outside a small town in Eastern Washington, fortunate to have a variety of mature old apple trees with varieties not found in stores. We had a Rome, a Jonathan, a tree we referred to as "the pie-apple tree," and my personal favorite: the snow apple. I was reminiscing about these apple trees with a friend, and got to wondering what those apples were actually called. Fortunately, the library has Apples of North America: a Celebration of Exceptional Varieties by Tom Burford. Browsing through this readable exploration of apples, I discovered the "snow apple" was likely a Shiawasee and the "pie-apple" was probably a White Transparent. 

Unusual apple varieties got me wondering about other out-of-the-ordinary fruits, and a quick browse of the library shelves led to some great discoveries, including The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo and Dandelion & Quince: Exploring the Wide World of Unusual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs by Michelle McKenzie. Both books include a listing that brought another childhood memory to mind: the annual search for huckleberries. My parents jealously guarded their knowledge of wild berry patches. We’d head out at dawn with salvaged plastic buckets, and return home as the sun was setting with gallons of tasty wild berries. Then it was a race to use or preserve the lot. My parents were pretty creative, but I bet they would have enjoyed some of these books to get more ideas:

Of course, the best thing to do with fruit is make a pie! My favorite by far is rhubarb, another strange fruit that grows well in this area. On a recent visit with my mom, we harvested some rhubarb from the back yard and made a strawberry rhubarb custard pie. Delicious! Need some good pie recipes? Try these:

Library hint: The library has an online resource called “Culinary Arts,” which gathers articles from many cooking and nutrition magazines going back decades. Go to our DIY & Recreation Resources page, scroll down to "Culinary Arts (Gale OneFile)," and give it a try!

A version of this column first appeared in The Messenger, August 2022.

Find more book columns in our Off the Shelf blog.