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Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Back in the old days, King Woodward would place a little business card-sized ad in The Aspen Times alerting the public that the crab apples were ripe out at the Institute. Immediately, locals would rush out to the Institute’s grove of crab apple trees, off to the side of Paepcke Auditorium, and would pluck them clean, these arguably being the best crab apples in town.

These days, there’s a major movement afoot to grow locally, buy from local farmers and ranches, to plant herbs and veggies in your back yard and, in general, to try to avoid the poisons and pesticides and the wasted energy involved in transporting our food halfway around the world before it hits our tables.

At the same time, ideas are being floated to neuter our crab apple trees by spraying the blossoms with a chemical that will abort the production of apples. I am pro-choice, but I think we are working at cross-purposes here.



I think that instead of trying to neuter the crab apple trees and probably killing off our bee population in the process (a very serious danger), we should be educating the public on the attributes of the crab apple.

If the public had harvested the crab apples downtown when they first got ripe, the bears wouldn’t have gone after them when the apples were overripe (best for bears, soft and squishy) while the bears were fattening up for hibernation.




Crab apples are an abundant natural resource and, like the rhubarb patches that used to be in everyone’s back yards (and could be again), they should be treasured and their harvest should be eagerly awaited.

One of the gardening supply stores advertised “apple-free crab apple trees” (sprayed with neutering compound?) as if that were an attribute. One could have the beautiful white blossoms (the red ones are ornamental, only the birds eat them) without the “mess and bother” of the crab apples. No, no, no!

Crab apples are a stupendous fruit. They make exceptional jelly and astounding applesauce (which can be frozen). Pickled, they are delicious. We look for natural organic food sources and here they are, all around us. They should be sold at the Farmer’s Market and at Clark’s and City Market, their song sung from the highest hills. We should hold crab apple festivals during their short picking season, as they have Strawberry Days in Glenwood.

In all the discussions of what to do with the crab apples, no one says EAT THEM.

Along that same line, and in the interest of killing two birds with one stone, I can attest that bears are very tasty, too. I do not expect this idea will fly but, considering some of the choices of locally raised beasties at the Farmer’s Market, it is not totally preposterous. It is all a matter of custom. I don’t think that China has a cat problem.

To accompany your bear roast (tastes like pork), here’s the recipe for crab apple applesauce:

Pull stems off a big bag of rinsed crab apples. Put the apples in a large pot and add water until they’re just covered. Boil until the apples “explode” and are very soft. Drain the apples, saving the juice for making jelly later (or not). Put the apples through a food mill ($20 on the Internet, possibly available locally), add sugar and nutmeg to taste (it will be tart!) and freeze in quarts or pints.

On a cold winter night, serve the bright red applesauce with a bear roast (or, if you’re squeamish, pig) and amaze your friends and family. Wild boar would make a good substitute.


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