Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sebastopol then and now

It's August and I've got a gravenstein apple tree in my garden ready to offer up it's tasty burden. It's an early apple, slightly tart and sweet, crisp and juicy. It makes heavenly applesauce, superb apple cakes, amazing apple pies, and yet it's still a beautiful eating apple. When we were looking at houses, the apple tree was loaded down with fruit, even though it had obviously been neglected. This gravenstein tree was a major selling point in my mind. For the past decade, I can't find these apples at the grocery store. Unfortunately, the gravenstein apple orchards in Sonoma County, particularly in Sebastopol are rapidly vanishing. They are being ripped out and replaced with either vineyards or houses or both. What is a farmer supposed to do when the land that they've always cultivated is now worth millions of dollars per acre and they are only getting $0.20 per pound for an apple harvest that lasts for a couple of weeks? Wine grapes make money, apples don't. The land itself can give a quick, one-time payoff and the landowner can retire in style so long as they don't want to live in the Bay Area anymore. I can't blame the landowners for not keeping the trees, but I sure miss seeing our local harvest at my local grocery store. (Stepping off of my soapbox now.)

There's always been a soft spot in my heart for the area around Sebastopol in Sonoma County. We spent many Sunday drives tracking down seasonal fruits and vegetables. If we found a local treat, we'd usually buy some to take home. Honey, eggs, beef jerky, zucchini bread, parakeets, etc. This is Mr. King, as I mentioned in my first post, he's the extraordinary man who could grow anything in the fruitful soil on Ross Station Road in Sebastopol He's holding some of his tasty red potatoes. He's long gone now, but I hope his fruit trees have survived.

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