On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Let’s Go Shake The Apple Tree
The Bengal Tiger was already in the branches of the Pennsylvania apple tree in the autumn of 2015 when she connected with the expression she had used some 44 years earlier. As she was about to shake the branches of the ripened red apples; and of the green apples on another branch, she smiled and said “let’s go shake the apple tree.” Back in 1971 it was a mango tree she had in mind, and we were enjoying the harvest of Itamaraca mangoes on the campus of the University of Hawaii.
On Sunday mornings after church in Honolulu, the Bengal Tiger would mull over our weekend agenda and during early spring it often came down to “let’s go and shake the mango tree.” She was always the first one to climb into the low, wide branches of the Itamaraca mango tree and give it the first shakes. As ripe, pungent mangoes fell softly to the ground, her dutiful companion would gather them up. So it was not so strange that 44 years later the Bengal Tiger was up in the branches of the apple tree and her soulmate was again on the ground collecting them. An hour later we also went to shake the nearby plum tree.
It was also not so strange that the Bengal Tiger had planted that grafted apple tree and had spent years pruning its branches and spraying for insects. When harvest time came this year, she formulated her plans to harvest, peel, slice, dehydrate and pack her beloved apples. Few people enjoy the fruits of their labor more fully than the Bengal Tiger. As this short chronicle goes into the public domain, the Bengal Tiger is still into the fifth round of drying apple chips.
The ongoing chronicles about her fruit trees might also include the pear tree that is not far away. In late August of the following year, there we were outside picking the 40 best of the pears that had ripened since we last visited our Pennsylvania home. It is a short tree and we didn't need to shake it to select the best fruits, but we gave it a shake or two just to re-inact the ritual that we had started in 1974. A couple of pears dutifully tumbled from the branches to the ground upon reciting the mantra, "let's go shake the pear tree."
The Bengal Tiger busy with peeling and slicing apples
The harvest season in Virginia also has many similar rewards. Picking ripe figs, persimmons, Fuji apples, and wild grapes—all at arm’s length; and then eating a few of them on the spot has always been a part of harvest ritual. Looking back over the years, we also remember harvesting and savoring strawberries, blueberries, lychees, malphighia, blackberries, cherries, currents, and Surinam cherries.
Chronicles about the Bengal Tiger are easy and enjoyable to update. That is because she is such a dynamic person, one who is always thinking about what to do next. So, a couple of weeks after the initial chronicle about shaking the apple tree began to settle into memory, the Bengal Tiger shifted into drying figs from the small tree astride our driveway in Virginia. Fresh figs are perhaps tastier, but they ripen so fast that we thought that we should try drying them in the food dehydrator. Bingo! It works great; and there are still a few dozen figs to be picked.
Not to be upstaged as a dried fruit snack, the next candidates were the large plantains we purchased at a local flea market managed by our Mexican neighbors 12 miles down the road. Most people know that plantains are not consumed raw, but even we didn't know that when the ripened plantains are dried in a food dehydrator, the flavor becomes outstanding. That recent discovery is one reason why the Bengal Tiger is such an interesting person; she makes serendipitious discoveries on a routine basis--by her willingingness to experiment and to explore. We are now in the process of making a video about how to prepare and save dried plantains.
The video about drying plantains was fun to make and we immediately committed it to YouTube for others to see. In the meantime, the Bengal Tiger is looking forward to shaking the two jujube trees outside our rear window. So far, they don't require climbing to reach the crunchy snacks we anticipate in the upcoming harvest season. Last year, the Footloose Forester was able to bite into one by merely leaning forward and clamping his teeth on a likely candidate.