Yesterday my grandson brought me some peaches from one of their trees. The peaches were not picture perfect, but boy were they good. I fixed peaches and cottage cheese for supper and then ate some more of them for breakfast. I volunteered to make a peach pie if my grandson would pick me some more.
As a farm family we have eaten a lot of fruit that was none too pretty. We valued the quality of the fruit over the look of it. When we picked our fruit there were no pesticides that had to be washed off before it could be consumed.
My father-in-law had a wonderful tree in the yard that produced delicious McIntosh apples. He never sprayed it so the apples were prone to be misshaped and had some annoying spots. We got used to those qualities. When I made a batch of applesauce I always had to cut away spots. I could use the apples, with the skin on however, without fear of contamination. The most that was there were something a bug or a bird left and that was easily washed away. The applesauce took on a natural pink color when the cooked apples went through the Foley mill. The only trouble with this tree is that he would never prune it. It soon was very tall. My son has taken care of that in the years that he has lived at the farm. He has pruned it to open up the fruit to the sun.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term Foley mill, it is a device that separates the skins from the flesh of the fruit. I used it for applesauce as well as for tomato juice. I asked for a Foley mill for Christmas one year after I saw my mother-in-law use hers. At the time it was not a major investment, but today is another story. That non-electric hardware that I wrote about one other time still has Foley mills, but they are quite pricey.
Garden produce on the farm was the same. We did not apply pesticides in any way. Our garden was fertilized naturally with the help of lime if we needed some additional nutrients in the soil. When we picked a tomato from the vine it was free of chemicals. Oh, it might have a blemish from being on the ground or there might be a mark from a snail, but that was easily cut away.
When I canned tomatoes or made tomato or V-8 juice I did it without a guilty conscience. In spite of the blemishes I was feeding my family the best that there was. I must admit it made my canning chores a little more difficult but I gladly made the sacrifice of time because of the quality of the food that I was able to produce.
Years ago the neighbor across the fields from our farm sold his eggs. He was well into his 90s when he was still peddling eggs. His vision was not as good as it used to be so he held out his hand for me to make change if I needed it. That scared me a little because he had to drive his 1940s Dodge to make the deliveries.
He also had a prolific garden. He did not use any fertilizer either. When it was time for sweet corn he brought that with him when he made his weekly egg delivery. His daughter often supplied us with other vegetables when she came to visit.
There were also Bartlett pears. That little farm had many trees that produced annually. If I wanted some pears I told Henry so that he would have a bushel for me when they were ready to be picked. The pears were delicious. They were sweet and juicy but once again they had some imperfections. When I canned them I might have pieces of pear instead of the halves that I intended. The thing about the pears was that they had to be ready to can. That meant that it might take me days or even a week to get all of the pears in jars. Those pears tasted so good when I brought a can of them to the table for our dessert during the winter months.
The little farm also had early apples called Transparents. They were crispy with white flesh. My daughter usually brings some of those for us to eat at the fair. They are great to eat and they make wonderful applesauce. I could not use the Foley mill for those apples though because the skins make little brown specks because they are so soft.
One spring Henry told me to come pick my own apples. I was happy to get the early apples so I went over with the children. Henry put the ladder up into the tree for me. Before I climbed up I noticed that the branch the ladder was balanced on was not a very sturdy one. I quickly looked to see how far I could fall if the branch did not hold my weight. As I climbed the ladder and began to reach and stretch to get the apples the branch gave way. Since I knew there was another much sturdier branch just below I grabbed hold of the ladder and rode out the adjustment.
While it is true that you cannot sell ugly fruit, it is really better for you than those gorgeous specimens you see in the stores. My family was raised to value the quality of the product, not its looks. I only purchased fruit when it was absolutely necessary. Most of the things that I canned were produced on the farm. I had full control of the quality and what went into each jar.
Start reading labels if you do not do it already. You will be surprised about what is in some of those packages and jars.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.