Saturday, August 7, 2010

Heirloom Foods: The Fuzzy Bottom Gals and Transparent Apples

Last Sunday my family and I went to my friend Daniel's house to eat apple cake and meet "The Fuzzy Bottom Gals".  Here they are in all their glory-- Umber, Ginger, and Amber, from left to right in the photo below.  (I hope I got that right...)
The Fuzzy Bottom Gals during our secret visit, July 18, 2010.

Truth be told, Annabel and I had met The Fuzzy Bottom Gals a few weeks ago, but we kept our visit secret from the other members of my family.  I was pretty sure our secret was safe because if you ask Annabel about chickens, the only thing she'll say is "Bock!  Bock!"

Unfortunately, Violet caught me looking at the photos from that first visit and I knew she'd put two and two together pretty soon.  There was much excitement in our household when we finally worked out the details of our second visit to see The Gals.  Daniel was very good at introductions and even let MY girls feed HIS girls, which was quite a thrill for all concerned.

Daniel also had a treat in store for me.  We had discussed my new Heirloom Food Project earlier in the week and he told me he had a project that might be a good fit with my project.  I've started documenting people who grow/cure/pickle or otherwise produce foods that they cannot buy for any amount of money.  I call these foods Heirloom Foods.  These are foods that mean so much to people that they will go to great lengths to produce them simply because they must have them.  These are also foods that nobody would never make to sell to anyone else because the cost and labor would be too prohibitive.  Daniel's project fit in with this criteria perfectly.

Daniel told me he had just baked an apple cake using apples from the tree in his backyard.  But these were not one of the standard varieties of apple popular in Southern California.  Daniel thought the apples in his backyard might be Transparent Apples.  My hometown was once known as The Apple Capital of the World, so I know apples.  And the idea of finding a Transparent apple in Los Angeles was pretty unusual.  When Daniel bought his house a few years back he inherited this apple tree, so for all he knows, it might be a Transparent apple tree.  But it might not.
Daniel's Transparent-like apples on the tree in his backyard, August 1, 2010.

For those of you unfamiliar with Transparent apples, I should take a moment to explain that "Transparent" is the name of variety of the apple.  The apples are not actually transparent.  I feel the need to tell you this because I've created confusion in the past by assuming that others were familiar with most heirloom variety apples.  When I wrote about my mother's Rambo apples in a previous post, my husband thought I had made a hilarious typo and did a bit of online research hoping to catch my "mistake".  He later informed me that the name of Sylvester Stalone's character Rambo was, in fact, named after the Rambo apple.  (David Morrell, author of the novel First Blood, named the Rambo character after a pile of Rambo apples his wife brought home at the time he was trying to name the character.)

Daniel and I both ate pies, cakes and applesauce made from Transparent apples growing up, as our families have for generations.  Unfortunately, Transparents don't ship well and they're not especially good to eat raw, so you can't buy them commercially.  My grandfather grew them on the family farm and after most of the very old trees died off, my parents bought them from friends who owned a local orchard.  Daniel knows me well enough to know that I would be excited to hear that he has a Transparent-like apple tree in his yard.  He also knows I'd be more excited to hear that he'd made apple cake with the fruit from this tree.  With walnuts.  Yum.  I hope Daniel keeps making lots of baked goods from his apples.  And I hope he keeps inviting me over to eat them.
Daniel's apple cake made with Transparent-like apples from his yard, August 1, 2010.