Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Roxbury Russets

November 25, 2013

Empanadas filled with Roxbury Russet apples.
The Farmers Market decamped for the season, taking down their white pavilions and moving from colorful vegetables and squash to more sensible potatoes and other root vegetables. A few farmers continue to sell in the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church community room, and even fewer brave open tents in the parking lot.

Now is the time to buy homemade preserves and dolls, wood products, and other good that are made by hand. Now is the time to be thankful for our harvest and lower our sunlight expectations, the hardest thing for me.

We recently finished the last peas I picked and froze this summer when Nancy Fortner declared an emergency of Too Many Peas in her garden. I’ve put the raised garden I use next door to bed, to dream of the crows and squirrels and songbirds, the bees and moths and butterflies, that will visit it next year.

In October, I stopped by the Secret Spring Farm stand at the market. They had some interesting-looking apples for sale, and I asked about them. “These are the oldest American apples,” said Felix. “Roxbury Russet.”

I knew they were not, since there are crabapples indigenous to the Northwest, but I didn’t want to start an argument. I tasted a slice. The apple tasted green and earthy, a little minerally. “Nice,” I said. “I’ll take a couple of pounds.” That worked out to four apples of varying sizes.

The Roxbury Russet was probably brought to the farm by Felix and Eric’s great-grandfather, Frank Williams, who homesteaded the place near Rolling Bay. The apple trees were planted in 1920. Felix and Eric are cousins, and they are married to sisters Sola and Maia. And now there is baby Aime. They all look very young.

At home, I sliced up the apples, peels and all, and cooked them with a little cinnamon, sugar and water. I rolled out dough and cut rounds to fill with apple before baking them until brown. I saved out a couple of empanadas, which we ate immediately, and mailed the rest to my son for his birthday.

We enjoyed ours, so I hope he enjoyed his. We are grateful for the bounty of the island, and happy to share it beyond its shores. I’m glad that Frank Williams’s great-grandsons, who grew up in California, decided to come to Bainbridge and revive his farm. There are neglected fruit trees in every neighborhood, food that could be gathered and shared. Maybe we will figure out a way to do that in the future.
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Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
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