by Slow Food USA Biodiversity Intern Regina Fitzsimmons
“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”
– Mark Twain
This September, kitchens in Portland, Maine and the surrounding towns will smell of warm apple sauce and sweet chutneys. John Bunker’s CSA, christened Out on a Limb will officially begin September 2nd and continue until November 11th. John grows many historic apple varieties called “old-timey” or heirloom apples, as well as unusual, new varieties. Neighbors have frequently asked John if they could get their hands on some to taste-test them in sauces and pies.
In response to consumer demand, John compiled a list of orchards around New England that grow heirloom apples. But he soon realized that a list, while extremely valuable, wasn’t practical for families seeking rare apples from a next-door source; many of these orchards are in the countryside, making it difficult for people to frequently visit.
After talking to friends in Portland, ME, John started thinking seriously about starting a CSA. “I’ve been on the lookout for ideas for how to make the more unusual varieties more accessible to a wider range of people,” he said. When he talked to his chef friends, he thought of an additional bonus: if chefs subscribed and started using these rare varieties in their cooking and listed the apples on their menus, it would get people—the “eaters”—seeing and talking about them. People would learn what apples are great in pies, or tarts and sauces. In effect, people would become more educated about apple history, uses and varieties.