I have many remarkable distant and recent memories about apples.
When I was a young boy, our family would take a drive up to the Brushy Mountains, where there were and still are a good selection of apple growers. You could buy the apples already picked, or you could pick your own, which was what we did.
Our family enjoyed apples, so we would pick several bushels. We joined the rest of the world, in that we loved fresh apples and fresh homemade apple pies.
Dried apples were also high on the list of enjoyable ways to consume this wonderful fruit. My dad built a large fruit drying cabinet. You could have dried any fruit, but I do not recall anything other than apple slices touching the racks. There is no fruit on earth that is more enjoyable than a dried apple spice cake.
In our family, my mother was the original cake boss, and she made the quintessential tribute to the perfect dried apple spice cake. She would bake three cake layers and then split each of them, leaving six layers. She would then layer them with the dried apple spiced mixture. Dear Lord, what a beautiful and tasty memory! I can smell and taste the flavors to this day.
I was chatting with my friend, Bill Evans, from Charlotte about apples, and he shared a story about his childhood journeys to his grandfather's farm, where he visited every fall. He described the beauty of dark green pastures lined with mature apple trees. The Stayman and Granny Smith varieties were his favorites. He spoke with fondness about his mother's lattice covered apple pies. Among the things he remembered most was climbing the apple trees. It was always a challenge to find the right limb to sit on because it had to be near the perfect apples.
Terri DeBoo says she loves the aroma and taste of the juicy Chenango Strawberry Apple. She discovered it up north years ago and fell in love with the flavor. Forever looking to match them, she and her family have become big fans of the Pink Lady that is gown in the Carolinas.
Randy Whitley tells me that he always takes a supply of apples when he goes camping. He cooks them on a low flame on a 1941 US Army griddle. Apples, real butter and cinnamon. The hypnotic aromatic experience wakes the campground. Everyone talks about it, he says.
We are fortunate in the Carolinas to have an abundance of apple growers and apple varieties to choose from. We have tart to sweet and everything in the middle.
Heritage or Heirloom varieties grow well in the Carolinas, and we have a number of growers who are doing their part to preserve this aspect of our history and agriculture.
At one time, there were more than 1,800 heritage varieties in the south with names such as Aunt Rachel, Chimney, Early Joe, Red June, Early Strawberry and Yellow Transparent. However, those numbers have dwindled, and it is important that we do all we can to save them.
One thing is for sure: apples are wonderful. They are beautiful, and when it comes to the consumption of this beloved fruit, you can eat them raw, you can bake them, you can stew them, you can saut'© them, you can make applesauce, and you can dry them and make a wonderful dried apple pie or spiced cake. You can even give the cow a break and make apple butter.
Life is always better with an apple.
Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show "Carl White's Life In the Carolinas." The weekly show is in its seventh year of syndication and can be seen in the Greenville, Spartanburg viewing market on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.