When I moved into my house, it came with two crabapple trees on the edge of the building.
And the first year, the trees gave fruit, but I know from childhood that crabapples can be wormy and kind of gross. So the fruit fell, and I didn’t even think much about it.
And that spring, we got some nasty snowstorms that closed the office and had me working from my home office— the window just outside which the crabapples stand. So I had a first row seat for the birds and rabbits and squirrels, who were visibly relieved to find the remnants of the crabapples under the snow.
But that spring, my homeowners’ association chose to spray the crabapple trees so that they didn’t give fruit. All I could think about was how noxious the chemicals would have to be to disrupt the tree that way. And how, in disrupting the tree, they disrupted those birds and rabbits and squirrels. And I got outraged— it’s not like the trees were here when the community was planned— they’re a landscaping choice. And there are varieties of crabapple that flower but don’t give much in the way of fruit. We had one in my yard, growing up. So they deliberately chose a tree that gave fruit, and then deliberately chose to disrupt the process. Which annoyed me.
So I went to the meeting, and people were really relieved that the HOA made this choice. “Those crabapples are everywhere in the fall, and they’re all over my shoes and I track them into my house.”
At this point, I should admit that I am a little too prone to worthy causes. My outrage reached a fever pitch, and I kid you not, I stood up then and there and volunteered to personally sweep all of the walkways of crabapples in the fall, if they’d stop spraying. My HOA contains 300 homes—it wasn’t a good suggestion. And I explained that these weren’t useless fruit. I had made crabapple jelly as a third-grader. We could choose to let them go to waste or we could choose not to. I left out that people could choose to wipe their feet off or not step on fallen crabapples…
But they had already sprayed for the year. I felt terrible, but when my trees gave fruit that fall, I knew I had to walk my talk. I didn’t look forward to it. I had left out, in front of the HOA while I was pleading dramatically for the fruit, that I think crabapples are nasty.
I asked a friend who knew something about canning to come and show me what to do. I found some recipes online, and we made crabapple preserves and crabapple pickles, that year.
I picked my crabapples very carefully, observing ripeness and worm holes and choosing the best whole fruit. And of the hundreds of crabapples I picked, I think we found less than a dozen that had been disturbed by insects.
The fruit, at its peak, is beautiful, red and gold, and when you cook it, it gives off this gorgeous jewel-colored liquid.
Canning is labor intensive, but I think it’s worth it. Along with gardening and composting, it’s connected me with the seasons and the natural world in ways I couldn’t have imagined were possible. I didn’t realize that I was quite so oblivious to this obvious rhythm that connects us all, on the planet. (To state it with maximum grandiosity.)
Since then, I grow more and I can more. And I appreciate more.