I consider myself to be a bit of a history enthusiast (read in the most literal sense-I don’t claim to know much but I am enthusiastic when doing so.) As such, I personally find it important to learn a bit about the story of my surroundings; grounding myself and connecting me with what came before and, in a way, also what will come after. This Saturday we will be hosting our second Save Seattle’s Apples event at Amy Yee Orchard (named after Amy Woo Yee-a community activist and star tennis player) in Mt. Baker. In my quest to know a bit about the area first, I learned that Seattle annexed the town of Southeast Seattle (which included Mt. Baker) in 1907-to encompass still wooded areas in order to fill the needs of Seattle’s milling industry. I learned that Sick’s Baseball stadium (home of the Rainiers until 1976) was located just two blocks south of Amy Yee. I learned of speakeasies, record-breaking hydroplanes, and the longest-active community club in the United States.
While people, events, and buildings can give one a sense of place, so can food. One of my favorite parts of Aldo Leopold’s famous book, A Sand County Almanac is when Aldo is cutting down a dead tree for firewood and talks about everything that tree has been a part of in the history of Sand County, WI as he does so. Like the Birch tree from Aldo’s book, the trees we care for at Amy Yee been a part of Seattle’s history-from the unincorporated woodlands of the 20th century to the metropolis Seattle is today. They have seen most, if not all of what I have described above. Not only that, they provide fruit that no longer is actively grown and cultivated-a literal taste of the past. These heirloom fruits help connect us to a different era; a time before Red Delicious, Gala, and Granny Smiths dominated our shelves. A time when they types of apples grown in an area were as unique as any other local customs and mores (there are over 7,000 apple varieties!) As I wind up, here is a list of some of the more common heirlooms in Washington-I encourage you to seek them out this summer and feel that connection to our past.
(Also, I came about a interesting NPR audio on heirlooms which is a worth a listen if you have a minute or seven. )