List Of Contents | Contents of Winter Sunshine, by John Burroughs
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the people are healthy and temperate, but I have no doubt they are. We
knew the apple had many virtues, but these Chilians have really opened
a deep beneath a deep. We had found out the cider and the spirits, but
who guessed the wine and the honey, unless it were the bees? There is a
variety in our orchards called the winesap, a doubly liquid name that
suggests what might be done with this fruit.

The apple is the commonest and yet the most varied and beautiful of
fruits. A dish of them is as becoming to the centre-table in winter as
was the vase of flowers in the summer,--a bouquet of spitzenburgs and
greenings and northern spies. A rose when it blooms, the apple is a
rose when it ripens. It pleases every sense to which it can be
addressed, the touch, the smell, the sight, the taste; and when it
falls, in the still October days, it pleases the ear. It is a call to a
banquet, it is a signal that the feast is ready. The bough would fain
hold it, but it can now assert its independence; it can now live a life
of its own.

Daily the stem relaxes its hold, till finally it lets go completely and
down comes the painted sphere with a mellow thump to the earth, toward
which it has been nodding so long. It bounds away to seek its bed, to
hide under a leaf, or in a tuft of grass. It will now take time to
meditate and ripen! What delicious thoughts it has there nestled with
its fellows under the fence, turning acid into sugar, and sugar into

How pleasing to the touch!  I love to stroke its polished rondure with
my hand, to carry it in my pocket on my tramp over the winter hills, or
through the early spring woods. You are company, you red-checked spitz,
or you salmon-fleshed greening! I toy with you; press your face to
mine, toss you in the air, roll you on the ground, see you shine out
where you lie amid the moss and dry leaves and sticks. You are so
alive! You glow like a ruddy flower. You look so animated I almost
expect to see you move! I postpone the eating of you, you are so
beautiful! How compact; how exquisitely tinted! Stained by the sun and
varnished against the rains. An independent vegetable existence, alive
and vascular as my own flesh; capable of being wounded, bleeding,
wasting away, or almost of repairing damages!

How it resists the cold! holding out almost as long as the red cheeks
of the boys do. A frost that destroys the potatoes and other roots only
makes the apple more crisp and vigorous; it peeps out from the chance
November snows unscathed. When I see the fruit-vender on the street
corner stamping his feet and beating his hands to keep them warm, and
his naked apples lying exposed to the blasts, I wonder if they do not
ache, too, to clap their hands and enliven their circulation. But they
can stand it nearly as long as the vender can.

Noble common fruit, best friend of man and most loved by him, following
him, like his dog or his cow, wherever he goes! His homestead is not
planted till you are planted, your roots intertwine with his; thriving
best where he thrives best, loving the limestone and the frost, the
plow and the pruning-knife: you are indeed suggestive of hardy,
cheerful industry, and a healthy life in the open air. Temperate,
chaste fruit! you mean neither luxury nor sloth, neither satiety nor
indolence, neither enervating heats nor the frigid zones. Uncloying
fruit,--fruit whose best sauce is the open air, whose finest flavors
only he whose taste is sharpened by brisk work or walking knows; winter
fruit, when the fire of life burns brightest; fruit always a little
hyperborean, leaning toward the cold; bracing, sub-acid, active fruit!
I think you must come from the north, you are so frank and honest, so
sturdy and appetizing. You are stocky and homely like the northern
races. Your quality is Saxon. Surely the fiery and impetuous south is
not akin to you. Not spices or olives, or the sumptuous liquid fruits,
but the grass, the snow, the grains, the coolness, is akin to you. I
think if I could subsist on you, or the like of you, I should never
have an intemperate or ignoble thought, never be feverish or
despondent. So far as I could absorb or transmute your quality, I
should be cheerful, continent, equitable, sweet-blooded, long-lived,
and should shed warmth and contentment around.

Is there any other fruit that has so much facial expression as the
apple? What boy does not more than half believe they can see with that
single eye of theirs? Do they not look and nod to him from the bough?
The swaar has one look, the rambo another, the spy another. The youth
recognizes the seek-no-further, buried beneath a dozen other varieties,
the moment he catches a glance of its eye, or the bonny-cheeked Newtown
pippin, or the gentle but sharp-nosed gillyflower. He goes to the great
bin in the cellar, and sinks his shafts here and there in the garnered
wealth of the orchards, mining for his favorites, sometimes coming
plump upon them, sometimes catching a glimpse of them to the right or
left, or uncovering them as keystones in an arch made up of many

In the dark he can usually tell them by the sense of touch.  There is
not only the size and shape, but there is the texture and polish. Some
apples are coarse-grained and some are fine; some are thinskinned and
some are thick. One variety is quick and vigorous beneath the touch,
another gentle and yielding. The pinnock has a thick skin with a spongy
lining; a bruise in it becomes like a piece of cork. The tallow apple
has an unctuous feel, as its name suggests. It sheds water like a duck.
What apple is that with a fat curved stem that blends so prettily with
its own flesh,--the wine apple? Some varieties impress me as
masculine,--weatherstained, freckled, lasting, and rugged; others are
indeed lady apples, fair, delicate, shining, mildflavored,
white-meated, like the egg-drop and the lady-finger. The practiced hand
knows each kind by the touch.

Do you remember the apple hole in the garden or back of the house, Ben
Bolt? In the fall, after the bins in the cellar had been well stocked,
we excavated a circular pit in the warm mellow earth, and, covering the
bottom with clean rye straw, emptied in basketful after basketful of
hardy choice varieties, till there was a tent-shaped mound several feet
high of shining variegated fruit. Then, wrapping it about with a thick
layer of long rye straw, and tucking it up snug and warm, the mound was
covered with a thin coating of earth, a flat stone on the top holding
down the straw. As winter set in, another coating of earth was put upon
it, with perhaps an overcoat of coarse dry stable manure, and the
precious pile was left in silence and darkness till spring. No marmot,
hibernating under ground in his nest of leaves and dry grass, more cozy
and warm. No frost, no wet, but fragrant privacy and quiet. Then how
the earth tempers and flavors the apples! It draws out all the acrid
unripe qualities, and infuses into them a subtle refreshing taste of
the soil. Some varieties perish, but the ranker, hardier kinds, like
the northern spy, the greening, or the black apple, or the russet, or
the pinnock, how they ripen and grow in grace, how the green becomes
gold, and the bitter becomes sweet!

As the supply in the bins and barrels gets low and spring approaches,
the buried treasures in the garden are remembered. With spade and axe
we go out and penetrate through the snow and frozen earth till the
inner dressing of straw is laid bare. It is not quite as clear and
bright as when we placed it there last fall, but the fruit beneath,
which the hand soon exposes, is just as bright and far more luscious.
Then, as day after day you resort to the hole, and, removing the straw
and earth from the opening, thrust your arm into the fragrant pit, you
have a better chance than ever before to become acquainted with your
favorites by the sense of touch. How you feel for them, reaching to the
right and left! Now you have got a Talman sweet; you imagine you can
feel that single meridian line that divides it into two hemispheres.
Now a greening fills your hand; you feel its fine quality beneath its
rough coat. Now you have hooked a swaar, you recognize its full face;
now a Vandevere or a King rolls down from the apex above and you bag it
at once. When you were a schoolboy, you stowed these away in your
pockets, and ate them along the road and at recess, and again at
noontime; and they, in a measure, corrected the effects of the cake and
pie with which your indulgent mother filled your lunchbasket.

The boy is indeed the true apple-eater, and is not to be questioned how
he came by the fruit with which his pockets are filled. It belongs to
him, and he may steal it if it cannot be had in any other way. His own
juicy flesh craves the juicy flesh of the apple. Sap draws sap. His
fruit-eating has little reference to the state of his appetite. Whether
he be full of meat or empty of meat, he wants the apple just the same.
Before meal or after meal it never comes amiss. The farm-boy munches
apples all day long. He has nests of them in the haymow, mellowing, to
which he makes frequent visits. Sometimes old Brindle, having access
through the open door, smells them out and makes short work of them.

In some countries the custom remains of placing a rosy apple in the
hand of the dead, that they may find it when they enter paradise. In
northern mythology the giants eat apples to keep off old age.

The apple is indeed the fruit of youth.  As we grow old we crave apples
less. It is an ominous sign. When you are ashamed to be seen eating
them on the street; when you can carry them in your pocket and your
hand not constantly find its way to them; when your neighbor has aples
and you have none, and you make no nocturnal visits to his orchard;
when you lunch-basket is without them, and you can pass a winter's
night by the fireside with not thought of the fruit at your
elbow,--then be assured you are no longer a boy, either in heart or in

The genuine apple-eater comforts himself with an apple in its season,
as others do with a pipe or a cigar. When he has nothing else to do, or
is bored, he eats an apple. While he is waiting for the train he eats
an apple, sometimes several of them. Whe he takes a walk he arms
himself with apples. His traveling-bag is full of apples. He offers an
apple to his companion, and takes one himself. They are his chief
solace when on the road. He sows their seed all along the route. He
tosses the core from the car winedow and from the top of the
stage-coach. He would, in time, make the land one vast orchard. He
dispenses with a knife. He prefers that his teeth shall have the first
taste. Then he knows that the best flavor is immediately beneath the
skin, and that in a pared apple this is lost. If you will stew the
apple, he says, instead of baking it, by all means leave the skin on.
It improves the color and vastly heightens the flavor of the dish.

The apple is a masculine fruit; hence women are poor apple-eaters.  It
belongs to the open air, and requires an open-air taste and relish.

I instantly sympathized with that clergyman I read of, who on pulling
out his pocket-handkerchief in the midst of his discourse, pulled out
two bouncing apples with it that went rolling across the pulpit floor
and down the pulpit stairs. These apples were, do doubt, to be eaten
after the sermon, on his way home, or to his next appointment. They
would take the taste of it out of his mouth. Then, would a minister be
apt to grow tiresome with tow big apples in his coat-tail pockets?
Would he not naturally hasten along to "lastly" and the big apples? If
they were the dominie apples, and it was April or May, he certainly

How the early settlers prized the apple!  When their trees broke down
or were split asunder by the storms, the neighbors turned out, the
divided tree was put together again and fastened with iron bolts. In
some of the oldest orchards one may still occasionally see a large
dilapidated tree with the rusty iron bolt yet visible. Poor, sour
fruit, too, but sweet in those early pioneer days. My grandfather, who
was one of these heroes of the stump, used every fall to make a journey
of forty miles for a few apples, which he brought home in a bag on
horseback. He frequently started from home by two or three o'clock in
the morning, and at one time both he and his horse were much frightened
by the screaming of panthers in a narrow pass in the mountains through
which the road led.

Emerson, I believe, has spoken of the apple as the social fruit of New
England. Indeed, what a promoter or abettor of social intercourse among
our rural population the apple has been, the company growing more merry
and unrestrained as soon as the basket of apples was passed round! When
the cider followed, the introduction and good understanding were
complete. Then those rural gatherings that enlivened the autumn in the
country, known as "apple-cuts," now, alas! nearly obsolete, where so
many things were cut and dried besides apples! The larger and more
loaded the orchard, the more frequently the invitations went round and
the higher the social and convivial spirit ran. Ours is eminently a
country of the orchard. Horace Greeley said he had seen no land in
which the orchard formed such a prominent feature in the rural and
agricultural districts. Nearly every farmhouse in the Eastern and
Northern States has its setting or its background of apple-trees, which
generally date back to the first settlement of the farm. Indeed, the
orchard, more than almost any other thing, tends to soften and humanize
the country, and to give the place of which it is an adjunct a settled,
domestic look. The apple-tree takes the rawness and wildness off any
scene. On the top of a mountain, or in remote pastures, it sheds the
sentiment of home. It never loses its domestic air, or lapses into a
wild state. And in planting a homestead, or in choosing a building-site
for the new house, what a help it is to have a few old, maternal
apple-trees near by,--regular old grandmothers, who have seen trouble,
who have been sad and glad through so many winters and summers, who
have blossomed till the air about them is sweeter than elsewhere, and
borne fruit till the grass beneath them has become thick and soft from
human contact, and who have nourisbed robins and finches in their
branches till they have a tender, brooding look! The ground, the turf,
the atmosphere of an old orchard, seem several stages nearer to man
than that of the adjoining field, as if the trees had given back to the
soil more than they had taken from it; as if they had tempered the
elements, and attracted all the genial and beneficent influences in the
landscape around.

An apple orchard is sure to bear you several crops beside the apple.
There is the crop of sweet and tender reminiscences, dating from
childhood and spanning the seasons from May to October, and making the
orchard a sort of outlying part of the household. You have played there
as a child, mused there as a youth or lover, strolled there as a
thoughtful, sad-eyed man. Your father, perhaps, planted the trees, or

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