What do you know about apples?

Maybe Jaya and Joshua took apples for granted when they moved into an orchard in my novel Nearly Canaan. That ignorance didn’t last long.

Here are a few of the things they may have discovered.

  1. Apples are a member of the rose family. (Good thing they don’t have thorns!)
  2. Apples have to be picked by hand.
  3. The trees require four or five years to produce their first fruit. Some trees grow to be 100.
  4. Apples account for half of the world’s deciduous fruit tree production. China, by the way, grows more apples than any other country.
  5. They come in sizes ranging from as small as a cherry to as big as a grapefruit – and can weigh up to three pounds.
  6. More than 2,500 varieties are grown in the U.S. but only the crabapple is native. Globally, more than 7,500 varieties are raised.
  7. The first apple tree in North America was planted by the Pilgrims.
  8. The harvest from an average tree can fill 20 bushels or boxes each weighing 42 pounds.
  9. About 36 apples go into a gallon of cider.
  10. Upstate New York used to be a big producer until acid rain from Midwestern coal-powered plants led to serious blight.


And, yes, as far as that apple a day doctor thing goes, the fruit has no sodium, cholesterol, or fat but is rich in fiber.

What can you add to the list?

Bringing the price per serving down

What do asparagus stems and lobster shells have in common?

They typically go in the trash, while the tender asparagus heads and the claw and tail meat go on the plate, maybe accompanied by melted butter.

I our household, though, we freeze the stems and turn them into cream of asparagus soup later.

And the shells, often roasted, though it’s not necessary, are simmered down into a lobster stock, which can hold its flavor for up to three months if frozen.

The stock makes for a great lobster bisque or lobster butter or fish chowder.

In essence, we wind up with more meals than one out of each ingredient – and thus getting more for our money.

What strategies like this can you share?


We could throw in a few exotic festivals to liven things up

One of my favorite lines I cut out of my novel What’s Left, was this quip:

I want some backbone in my religion. You can’t sit without it.

But as I looked at the flow of the story, I just couldn’t find a good place to develop some pushback from Cassia in her teens, where it would have been most appropriate.

Still, if you know anything about the practice of meditation itself — often called sitting — you just might enjoy the double-meaning.

Another way I thought of raising more color regarding their Buddhist identity was through rounds of Tibetan holidays. The names and special touches alone can be charming: New Year’s archery; incense to drive away evil ghosts; Sho Dun “yogurt festival”; the Meeting of the Eight Guardians (stay inside to avoid evil outdoors); Golden Star to wash away greed, passion, jealousy and to abandon ego; the washing festival. Think of the picnics and ritual bathing.

I might have also built something on the Eight Auspicious Symbols, including conch shell, parasol (crown), victory banner, golden fish, or treasure vase. The Endless Knot is the name of a chapter, though.

Beyond that, I kept looking for synonyms for Buddha or Buddhism. One of my favorites, which I didn’t use, is the hanging cliff-side wonders. Some of those monasteries are no place for anyone with a fear of heights!


Many traditions have special dishes for specific holidays — secular or religious. Sometimes it’s even a family thing, rather than something everyone does.

What’s your favorite “holiday food”?


Church-sponsored Greek festivals are popular events in many towns across America. And, yes, men do much of the cooking. Opa!