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apple-tree-056fb57ed927bf3668ef04e5b9850e99363b87fe-s6-c30The neighborhood where we live is part of the old rural past of our college town: it’s up the hill from the oldest settlement area, and slopes downhill to a plateau that runs out towards the other river, where the land drops precipitously. The house we live in was built in the 1920s, about the time of the junior high school and the stadium below us. The streets are named for the people who settled and farmed here, and two of the early houses remain, one frame and one stone.

Even into the 1940s, there was a dairy farm in this area, and a milk wagon; paintings from the first quarter of the twentieth century show an orchard named for one of the settlers, and there’s possible physical evidence of an earlier existence: apple trees in the verge around the corner from us.

I don’t know if these are new trees or old, though apple trees can live a long time. Well established and productive, the apples look like Paula Reds, but then again, so do Devonshire Quarrendens. (Paulas are a 1968 apple introduction, based on McIntosh apples.) What I do know is that they’re early season and good for eating, though we don’t like to pick too many: it feels like stealing, though no one ever seems to picks them. Mr S finally heard why: they’re Animal Apples.

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A man and his son were on bikes at the corner under the tree; the man told his son the apples were not for eating: “Those aren’t for people. Those are animal apples.

Those apples are delicious, and if it didn’t feel like stealing, I’d go up there with a basket. So many go to waste, and I suppose it’s because people have this “animal apple” idea.

There’s good foraging in the city, if you look, blackberries and raspberries in scrub ground, the apple trees, and the lettuce I let go to seed that flourished in the cracks of the walk down the side of our house. The idea that apples on a city tree aren’t for people  is sad. I ate mulberries off the tree in our yard in Chicago, where we grew rhubarb in the yard that fronted a busy street.

I don’t know what I find most disturbing about Animal Apples: the possibility that we’re so far removed from food that people can’t tell the difference between eating apples and ornamental apples, or that we’re so far from where our food originates that we fear anything that’s not assembled, processed, or obviously tamed and presented for our consumption.