U-Pick Apples

Do you know what an apple tree looks like? I had always imagined them to resemble enormous banyan trees-- grand enough to orchestrate Isaac Newton's thoughts in the direction of gravity, thick enough to hide the Devil in the guise of a serpent, and tall enough to require ladders to pluck apples from. How surprised and disillusioned I was, therefore, when I went apple-picking at the Hamptons, near the eastern tip of Long Island, with a group of friends last weekend.

The orchard had rows and rows of apple trees with branches well within my arm's reach. As such, they better resembled domesticated trees of the kitchen-garden variety! While this did simplify the task of apple-picking, it robbed us of the serendipitous thrill of spotting a perfect undiscovered apple on an out-of-reach bough. For anyone used to buying apples from the supermarket, a visit to an orchard is indeed an eye-opener. The variety of colours and sizes and textures of apples-- from the omni-present gala, to the cricket ball-like Fuji and the McIntosh (which inspired the name of the first Apple computer)-- is simply astounding. It was also instructive to see over-ripe apples burst open and spread their seeds, jolting back faded memories of pollination and germination from high-school biology books.

For a concrete-jungle dweller like me, exposed only to the greenery of Calcutta's maidan or Manhattan's Central Park, an occasional visit to the orchard is but a poor substitute to actually being surrounded by flora and fauna. I have always envied my friends and family members who have grown up in towns like Durgapur or Jamshedpur, and have developed an intrinsic knowledge to pick the freshest vegetable in a market spread, or identify all the flowers in a garden. To be in close contact with nature is a wonderfully refreshing experience, and for a few delicious hours on that sun-soaked afternoon, the apple trees helped me forget the hustle and madness of the Big Apple only a hundred miles west.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Genesis, 2:16

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