Saturday, October 8, 2011

Salt Spring Island Applefest

Fullford Hall - full of apples
Last weekend was Applefest on Salts Spring Island, so we jumped into the VW Van which somehow seemed just so right for going to this event, after all, someone once said that Salt Spring Island answers the question, where have all the hippies gone? Hippies and yuppies. Gumboots and the well heeled. A bumper sticker reflects the cultures 'To hell with world peace, use your turn signals'.
First stop Ganges where we picked up tickets to the event and a map which showed all the farms and food related hot-spots on the island to visit. We timed it just right-- being 5 minutes late for the Crofton-Vesuvius ferry, or, to put it another way, 55 minutes early for the next ferry, we were first on and first off, and hence, first in line at the ticket booth. It seemed that the whole ferry load of cars were headed to the same place.
[PhotoBriony doing an
apple portrait]
Next stop, Fulford Hall, apple-central. The whole centre of the hall had tables loaded with apples, hundreds of varieties, most with descriptive notes emphasizing their best use (dessert, pies, eating, storage, etc.). I stopped in front of a plate of five perfectly formed, but with skin like russet potatoes, apples with a sign 'Winner of the Fall 2011 Fair'. There was an older man to the right of me and another to the left. They too, were looking at the same plate in puzzlement. 
'That's a pretty ugly apple' declared the one on the right.  
'Yeah', said the left nodding.  
I looked up at a woman who was on the organizing side of the table and asked ' What is it about this apple that makes it a winner?' I was expecting to hear it had a taste out-of-this-world.  
She looked a little embarrassed and hummmed and hawed and suggested 'Weelll, they get judged on a point system and uniformity is important and all five apples look like perfect replicas, so maybe they won based on their clone-like appearance.' She looked slightly doubtful.  
Right and left sides turned to look at me and both raised their eyebrows. They weren't buying it.
I looked it up later, to find this is an apple that dares to be different. A diamond in the rough. A niche apple for the discerning apple lover who appreciate its sweet nutty flavour. A good Salt Spring Island apple and to think we had been very doubtful.
'Along the walls were tables selling a variety of things every apple-lover needed: seeds; mason bee homes; pomegranate, lime, and other heat-loving trees (these islands are known for their Mediterranean-like climate....in good years); apple pies; balms and lotions; and there, in one corner was Briony, friend, professor, artist, writer, raconteur, tv personality, activist, Lady Godiva, Ms April (I think it was) in the Nude Woman's 2001 Save-SaltSpring-from-clear-cutting Calendar; painting portraits of apples-just bring your favorite apple--for $5. What a deal! There was a lineup of proud apple owners waiting their turn.
[Photo:Goat milk ice cream]
Map in hand, we headed next to a couple of organic farms and toured their gardens, and sampled their apples, buying two sweet varieties, Arlete, a sweet golden-delicious-related dessert apple developed in Switzerland and Wynachee (if I remember correctly), small but sweet.
Next, a visit to Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, where we tasted at least six different goat cheeses and then had another round of tasting and narrowed it down to two types: Blue Juliette a soft, mild blue and Montana, a mild hard sheep's milk cheese with a touch of goat milk to make it silkier. We also picked up a jug of fresh pressed pear and apple juice and goat milk ice cream cones.
Next stop was the Salt Spring Island Bread Company where we picked up a loaf of whole wheat nut. This has to be the most beautifully situated bakery. Perched on top of a moss and arbutus covered hill overlooking the southern Straits. This logically led to Ruckles Park where we had a picnic, admired the apple trees and the scenery.
And, you fibre friends might be wondering, just where is the fibre. Well, there were sheep everywhere, and I saw fleeces sticking out beneath the rafters at two farms. And, as luck would have it, it was also the Salt Spring \island Guild show at Arts Spring. There was lots of inspiration there. Two things stood out for me, a incredibly intricate black silk scarf and a blanket or throw spun and woven by Lorrie Irwin (probably from her own sheep) and dyed in gorgeous colours by Cheryl Wiebe. Of course I took my spindle and spun up some silk.

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