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A harvest of nine on the North Coast 500


I thought nine was just some strange symbol between eight and ten. It turns out however to mean lots of different things to many diverse cultures. Not only that but it appears to cover every aspect of human life. Running through culture to physiology (we females are pregnant, all being well for nine months) through to various Asian, European and even Norse religions. It flies through the sky amongst astronomy and mixes with music and superstition (some composers believed they would die if they finished their 9th symphony and of course some did). Science, mathematics, technology and least we forget literature; after all there are nine circles of Hell in Dante’s Devine Comedy, all have some fascinating connection to nine. Yet here was I thinking it was just a number.

Although not any odd number even for us. No, nine has a very important place in our…garden or rather our harvest. Nine is the usual number we can expect from our apple tree. It doesn’t matter what we do, whether we nurture our plant with water, food or attention or conversely ignore it and hope it can survive itself; the ultimate number of apples we seem to get at the end of the season is 9.

After reading up about this unique digit though, I am now wondering if in fact I can steal a little of the belief from the Chinese culture; in that our tree could be regarded in fact as lucky given that it produces a constant harvest of 9. Perhaps I shouldn’t have desired a bigger yield after all. Too late though, as this year we have had a bumper crop. I have to admit it isn’t down to us. We haven’t done anything different but something has happened that has encourage our little tree to produce this spectacular abundance.

It not only fills my cupboard but my heart too as apples feature strongly in my next Blàs of the Highlands book. One of my problems after coming up with the idea was that my whole experience of the size of harvest you get from an apple tree was nine apples. A tasty crop I grant you but hardly enough to produce two crumbles let alone a humongous amount of fruit. I mean just how many trees would I need to allow for the plot I had in mind to work? An immense orchard according to my calculations based on our magic number of 9 apples per tree. Thankfully I can now see that I don’t need to have a surprisingly large orchard suddenly arrive unbidden into the village. It may only take a few more that the one I have growing in my very own garden. Well ok, maybe even a few more than that.

Back to real life and my abundance of cooking apples. Before I have even taken my first peel of a skin, my harvest is flying out the door to family members. Some to make apple sauce, others for a crumble. One of the younger members of the family has even pocketed two small ones for practising his recently developing juggling skills! On top of which there is no way I will be allowed to forget the requests for homemade pie that are flooding in from individual members of this household either.

It is looking very likely that I will be spending a considerable amount of time in the kitchen, peeling, chopping and cooking our harvest. A veritable mixture of apples pies, crumbles, purees and chutneys will be eaten, frozen or bottled for future use. On my lone quest I shall be dreaming no doubt of the fun and laughter the villagers of Blàs enjoyed together in their very own impromptu ‘apple weekend’ with not a single number 9 in sight.

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© 2020 by Ceitidh Hutton