Saturday, October 19, 2013
Don’t be alarmed: The hum from my basement in coming weeks is just my bank of fruit dryers.
Now that harvest has hit its stride, I’ll be slicing up the fruit and cranking out those delectable dried scraps of Bosc, Gala, Honey Crisp, Anjou, or Bartlett.
It’s hard to say what way pears and apples taste best: fresh, in pies, or dried. All forms are good, of course. The choices are as varied as the fruit itself. The ABCs of local fruit go well beyond the Anjou, Bartlett Comice big three grown in the Hood River Valley.
There’s something for just about every letter of the alphabet; Delicious, Elstar, Forelle, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Mutsu, Ortley, Packham’s Triumph, Rome Beauty, Seckel, Winesap and more.
The letter H, notably, is the Hanner apple, a golden giant that matures to the size of a small cantaloupe. But overall, the fruit is large this year, the result of sunshine and warm temperatures alternating serendipitously with periods of rain throughout the growing season.
The Comice are the size of softballs, and seen in the Harvest Fest bins from Draper Girls of Mount Hood are Golden Delicious that will challenge the Hanners’ for largest fruit.
Besides its vital economic impact, the orchards in our midst tie us all together as a community. Hood River County is the largest grower of pears in the country, and there is something remarkable in the variety of fruit as well as its quality.
While growers focus largely on the mass marketable varieties of pears and apples, one of the wonders of autumn in our valley is the many smaller or specialty fruit types, the hard-to-find varieties. You won’t find some of these pears anywhere else in the country, and the sharp-eyed buyer can also find fruit that is raised for sale this year only, or from a handful of trees. Local farmers pride themselves on the variety and excellence of their fruit, and that includes the ready availability of rarities.
Growers at Harvest Festival have even been known to bring in samples of fruit they are testing in the orchard. You might get handed a slice of some distinctive pear or apple that Oregon State University scientists and that grower are cooperating on developing for future market expansion. You might like that pear or you might not, and depending on plenty of factors including what kind of response the orchardist gets from people who taste, it’s possible you’ll never taste that variety again.
Which makes my C pear Big-3 — Concorde, Cascade and Comice — taste all the more sweet. (Final note: Get those gems while you can. They dry very nicely indeed.)
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge