On the drive up to Ballarat a few weeks ago we passed the area where the old Melbourne Road meets the Freeway. The last time we were on the old road was when we took Celia and Bill, my sister and her husband, scrumping for apples. Scrumping, a very British word, generally refers to apples though it can be other fruit. Now just in case you think we were stealing them, scrumping also includes picking from trees which are not owned by anyone. These were actually trees on the side of the highway.
The first time I scrumped for apples was back in England, in the orchard next to my Kent Nan’s house, in East Peckham. We were only allowed to pick up the falls, I remember fondly, sitting on the ground beneath the trees, munching away. When we were stationed at Beechworth with the Salvation Army, an orchardist would invite us, once his pickers had gone through, to pick apples for the disadvantaged. Scrumping apples, also brings to mind my mum. She used to tell the popular story of Johnny Appleseed, how he preached and scattered apple seeds as he walked across America, just so folks could scrump for apples. Actually, the story has been romanticized a bit. John, who was an apprentice orchardist, planted seedlings.
A couple of year’s back we saw Hugh on River Cottage encouraging scrumping and the growing of fruit trees on the roadsides. Then of course our own Gardening Australia show has recently encouraged people to plant fruit trees, among other things, on their verges (nature strips). This morning I turned on Songs of Praise and there saw the story of a small community in West Yorkshire growing fruit and vegetables for the community to pick. In fact community gardens are spreading right across the globe.
Of course, then there is the expression ‘the apple of my eye’. The phrase comes from the old Hebrew word for pupil. In several places in the Bible we read that just as one would take care to protect the pupil of their eye so God would faithfully protect his people. The expression today usually refers to someone we really cherish.
When I think about it, there is a very satisfying feeling about scrumping. It’s like digging for treasure and finding it. Not quite as satisfying as the knowledge, that because of Jesus, we can be the Apple of Gods Eye, but still it’s an exceptionally good feeling.
“Keep me as the apple of your eye, Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 17:8