Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Imperfection is Organic
We've visited farms with train rides, hay rides, corn mazes, gourmet donuts and ice cream, petting zoos, pony rides, barbeques and playgrounds. These theme-park orchards provided great entertainment, but they could never provide us with one thing: organic apples.
They say that it is impossible to grow organic apples, pears and stone fruit on the east coast. They say these crops will quickly be devoured by molds, fungi and pests. I've spoken to many vendors at my local farmer's market, and they all sing the same refrain: we do our best, we use as little spray as possible, if we didn't spray you couldn't eat these.... But that's not entirely true.
For the past two years my family has visited Old Frog Pond Farm, a 25-acre pick-your-own orchard owned by a local artist. Our first year there, it was sleepy and quiet. The trees were short and looked sparse. The apples were tiny, lopsided, disfigured and covered with black and brown splotches.
"Are these safe to eat?" I asked the young man who worked there. He smiled and informed me that these blemishes were a natural part of the apple, perfectly safe for human consumption. "Organic," he said, "is not perfect."
Still, we were a bit fearful, so we took them home and baked pies and cooked applesauce instead of eating them raw.
Over the course of the year, his words remained with me: "Organic is not perfect." It got me thinking about my perceptions of the world and myself. When I shop I seek out perfect products. I exercise in hopes of a more perfect body. I write aspiring to the perfect manuscript. I child rear with earnest desire to be the perfect mother ... wife ... citizen. I keep searching for the aha! moment when I realize that it has all come together perfectly.
In a world of shiny, glossy, beautiful people, products and produce, it's hard to accept anything less.
This year, we decided to go back to Old Frog Pond Farm. My kids discovered hidden sculptures, designed by the owner, nestled between the trees and along the edges of the field. The orchard seemed busier, the trees seemed fuller, the choices seemed greater, and the apples seemed less blemished. When my kids asked for samples, I didn't bat an eyelash at the black mottled skins.
The apples were not beautiful by traditional standards. Not even close! But they were grown without toxic chemicals and they were delicious.
I've finally begun to understand that imperfection really is natural, organic and healthy. It's the mottled moments that make us human and the lopsided apples that give us something to write about.