Apples and Pea-tatoes

Our apple tree has produced its annual glut of fruit and we have gone crazy making stuff from the fruit. Today we had apple and cider sauce with parsnip mash and duck for tea, and baked an apple harvest cake. Tomorrow, parsnip and apple soup are planned as well as an invented trout and apple dish that we both decided would probably be incredible. I’ll let you know.

The spate of apples has inspired me to explore various ways of improvising spherical fruits and I have been enjoying very much the process of picking fruits, examining them, and then attempting to translate various aspects of them into woollen creations. In art college I once did a project that involved making white, china casts of apples. I was fascinated by all the different sizes and shapes of native apples; the random swellings and bumps and oddities which do not pass the supermarket standardising process. I love the character of apples, the way the fruit seems to grow out from a central star in any direction that it pleases, curving to accomodate the branches, foliage or other apples that lie close to it while it is growing. This is the first apple I have knit; I have called it Love Apple because it is such a very lush pinky colour and because the strand of kidsilk haze that I knit into it alongside the pink yarn makes it very, very soft to hold.

I was delighted also in my spree of apple knitting to be able to use up some very slubby, ancient, mothbitten old yarn that I’ve had for years. I think it was handspun from a raw fleece and it is slightly greasy and felted and feels rough and hessian-like. I have kept it because it reminds me of learning to use a drop spindle about nine years ago from Kayla and Brendan* who I think made the skein. This ball of dark brown wool has stayed with me as a reminder of the time when I spun enough thick and slubby wool using Brendan’s spindle and fleece, to make a scarf. I dyed the scarf with onion skins and wore it for years, totally amazed (urban, unschooled in such things as I am) that such a thing could be produced directly by me. I don’t know where the scarf is now, but the amazing skein of yarn reminds me of that whole era and of the fascination with self-sufficiency and local produce that was beginning to take hold for me back then. But beyond its sentimental use and cultural reference point, the dark ball of yarn is a very small ball and a very chunky weight, so I have failed thus far to find a fitting destination for it. Imagine my delight when I discovered it is the very thing for improvising apple stalks and the little tuft of darkness that blooms at the base of an apple:

This is the apple I made most closely trying to copy the actual apples on the tree:

…and for comparison:

I also made an onion, this time using another sentimentally reserved yarn. Caroline dyed this a while back and sent me a random skein. I think it is onion or turmeric that she used to dye it, but the colour is wonderfully warm and vibrant and onion-like… I was very happy with how the onion turned out, but it seems lonely without some carrots, some garlic… perhaps a parsnip. I love it because it reminds me of Caroline and of how we always talk about everything we are growing when we catch up on the ‘phone. It is also appropriate as Caro is the knitter of vegetables par excellence (if you are on Ravelry, check out her vegetable bunting!) and a constant inspiration to me in the improvisation of knitted vegetables.

In actual edible produce from the garden, I was delighted today to unearth our new, invented vegetable: pea-tatoes. To make your own pea-tatoes, plant potatoes in the ground really late in the season, (try July) subject them to criminal levels of negligence (footballs hitting their stalks repeatedly, cats trampling upon, no sunshine, lots of rain, slug damage, shady positioning etc.) and then vaguely remember them in September and dig them up. They will be the exact size as peas, but will still be very tasty just oven baked with some salt and olive oil.

I love this photo Mark took of me with the pea tatoes…

…they really are *tiny*

* Kayla and Brendan were two Australian folk who were driving around Ireland in a mini bus, staying with friends, making rye bread and spinning yarn. I met them at a house-warming and they came to stay with me for ages. They taught me how to make soughdough bread and how to use a drop spindle. I have forgotten now, but I’m sure I could recall it if I tried…

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