A slice of late summer sharing in Estonia
Eestlased Eestis 20 Sep 2014  EWR
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A definitive slice of life in Eesti in late summer is picking apples, but not so much from trees, as from crates left by people’s gates, baskets left in school cafeterias and bowlfuls left in workplace kitchens. If you love your colleagues, you bring them apples. Or, you simply need to get rid of your perishable pommes. They are offered everywhere; free for the taking! The varieties in the communal kitchen in the photo are martsipan (red to yellow; top left) and [/i]valge klaar[/i] (light yellow-green to translucent). Photo: Riina Kindlam, Tallinn

Õunad (apples) aren’t news to anyone. Except for maybe some specific local varieties, which may not exist everywhere, such as valged klaarid – directly translated as “white clears”. I had never set eyes (or jaws) on such a thing until visiting Estonia. But I had heard a lot about them. My father and his sisters reminisced about them, with a strange dreamy gaze; it was something very much connected to their quintessential KODU (home), the one they had to abandon, and they longed for them. Valged klaarid are among the first apples to ripen, hence the first to be enjoyed. But they have to be consumed relatively quickly, since they are a summer variety that doesn’t keep well. This as opposed to the many varieties of tali/õunad (winter apples), which, if stored correctly, will accompany you happily into the Christmas season and beyond. (Back in the day, Christmas trees were decorated by hanging small, hard sibul/õunad (onion apples) and candies on them.)
It’s rather shocking that the one thing Estonians are sometimes forced to discard and abandon (compost), because they simply can’t deal with the numbers, are apples. Throwing away perfectly good food is NOT something that’s done in Estonia. Cleaning your plate, being mindful to consume prior to the best before date (thereby not throwing anything away) and not light-handedly tossing leftovers are unwritten rules here. Everything grown and picked is stewed, canned, pickled, bottled and frozen, but apples are too big of an opponent for even the feistiest cook. (Pikemalt Eesti Elu 19. sept. paberlehes)
 
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