how ’bout them apples?

After a relatively long wait for fruit during the course of this year, we have been happily enjoying the shade of our very own apple tree in our community garden by the lake.  We began searching for a garden at the beginning of the year, with hopes of starting work in the Spring and having it set for the hot Summer days.  We did try in all honesty!  It’s hard work however, and requires lots of discipline that two adults with two kids have a hard time getting the hang of.  Once a week’s work was not enough this year given the fast growing pace of all kinds of trees, shrubs, and grass in a small 300-square-meter (3,200 square feet) plot of land…especially given that when we took over it, it had been neglected for quite some time.

Nonetheless it has given us amazing, technology-free quality family time, and has definitely worked wonders with our physical & mental health.  Having a garden of one’s own has many, many benefits: ornamental plants are often grown for their flowers, foliage, or overall appearance; useful plants, such as root vegetables, leaf vegetables, fruits, and herbs, are grown for consumption; and most importantly (for me) gardening is considered to be a relaxing, therapeutic activity.  There’s something so wonderful about spending the morning tending to your garden and coming home reaping the rewards.

In Germany, community gardens are very popular.  Basically, a community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people, most often in individually fenced plots while producing fruit, vegetables, and/or plants that are grown for attractive appearance. Because of their free time, retired folk are the vast majority of the owners who spend their mornings tending to their beautiful plants.  The younger crowd is usually too busy with family life & work to deal with a garden, but a few of us do exist!  And even though our small garden with its cozy bungalow is incomparable to the magnificent works of art our neighbors tend to, we strive to enjoy it every week as our little getaway and teach our girls a little more of the beautiful world out there, screen & technology free.

With our garden contract came a list with scientific names of the different species of plants growing on our plot of land.  After some research, I learned a bit more about the different plants and made sure to take note of them as they flourished in the Spring.  Im-po-ssi-ble!  Each week we found new plants, new flowers, and we were never able to keep track.  At least I know for next year what to expect, and hope to be much more prepared.  The so-called Garden-Season is from March until November, which means we have plants, fruit & vegetables growing non-stop most of the year, according to the changing seasons.  We are greeted in the Spring with lovely colorful tulips that sprout out randomly across the lawn, and I can imagine the pumpkins & squashes bid us farewell in the Fall.  Our two most prized possessions, nevertheless, are our small-but-hardy apple tree and our delicate-but-frisky kiwi vine, and along with the many-colored roses, the wild strawberries & raspberries, potatoes, tomatoes, & black currants…it really makes us happy!

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It was therefore with great joy that we arrived at our garden this week with my littlest helper to find our apple tree full of beautiful apples and the floor dressed in red with fallen ripe apples, ready to make their way to our kitchen.  In Spring, we enjoyed the tree’s beautiful blossoms: lovely white & pink flowers perfect for head crowns reminiscent of the popular Snapchat filter we all know & love.  The fruit matures in late summer or autumn, which means this first batch is only the beginning of a our great, big apple adventure.  The best part was getting to see my daughter happily harvesting her big basket of apples, picking out the pretty red ones and disgustingly discarding the ones our little animal friends got to first!

Although there’s no way for me to know what kind of apple we’re talking about, I’m sure someone out there could tell me – not to mention my all-knowing elder plot neighbors: old, kind Renate who cherishes her plants & shrubs and silent Herr Müller, who keeps to himself and has the most impeccable garden (borderline military style) you will ever see.  According to my online sources, there are certain species of apple native to Germany – Alkmene, Clivia, Geheimrat Dr. Oldenburg, Gloster, Pinova – and it’s no wonder they remain the most popular fruit in the country.  The mostly grown apple varieties here are the Elstar, Jonagold, Janagored, and Braebum, and there are cider apples, too…far too sour or bitter for fresh eating, but are used for making cider.  God knows which kind we have, but I have a whole list of goodies ready to be prepared!  As one of the world’s healthiest foods, we won’t complain about bringing baskets full of them every week for the course of the season…plus there’s enough recipes out there to make us rejoice!  An apple a day keeps the doctor away!

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