For the sake of a single apple

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One of the last remaining apples on Sacred Heart apple trees. Elizabeth Bachmann '17

As the branches of Convent of the Sacred Heart apple trees grow bare, and fallen fruit blankets the ground, students and faculty ponder ways in which the school can better utilize the nutritious and homegrown apples.

One of the last remaining apples on Sacred Heart apple trees. Elizabeth Bachmann '17
One of the last remaining apples on Sacred Heart’s apple trees.
Elizabeth Bachmann ’17

The apple trees are spread across the lawn in front of the mansion building and are clustered around the front gates. The apple varieties range from Golden Delicious to different kinds of Macintosh. According to Sacred Heart Operations and Maintenance Manager Mr. Walter Bendik, the trees range in age from 15 to 70 years old. 
In addition to the assortment of apple trees on campus, a single pear tree grows next to the Golden Delicious apple tree. The school previously planted various peach, plum, and pear trees, but they were never replaced when they died.
“I have been at Sacred Heart for four years, and I never even noticed the trees. Now that I know they are there, I think we should definitely use them more,” senior Erin Schick said.
According to Sacred Heart Plant Operations Co-Manager Mr. Thomas Watroba, the apple trees are self-sufficient, and the school is dedicated to keeping them organic.
“Other than pruning the trees, there are no chemical applications, and there are no foliar applications. They are basically true organic apples,” Mr. Watroba said.
This year’s particularly abundant yield necessitated groundskeepers to dispose of a notably large number of apples. Although deer and other local wildlife enjoy the fallen harvest, the school discards the majority of this resource.
“Anything that has fallen is just discarded. We throw it in our dump, and it basically feeds whatever animals get to it. I would have to say we throw away about a truck load per year,” Mr. Watroba said.
Although the school cannot utilize all of the fruits, the Dining Service helps curtail waste by cooking and baking with them. According to Food Service Director Mr. Jamey Patterson, the kitchen has already prepared various apple-themed dishes this fall.
“Some classes bring us apples, and one day we ended up with a couple hundred of them, so we were using them everywhere we could think of. We did an apple crumble, rustic apple sauce, specialty salads, and we always tried to have apples out for the students to grab,” Mr. Patterson said.
Students responded positively to the idea of utilizing the school’s own apple trees in the cafeteria.
“I think it is great that they are using the apples in the cafeteria. It’s good for the environment and the students,” Erin said.
Upper School Science Department Chair and teacher of the Nutritional Chemistry and the Brain course Dr. Victoria Landry, recognizes the benefits of this homegrown resource.
“Apples are a great whole food to have as a snack. Eating a whole apple supplies a wider variety of nutrients than drinking apple juice or eating most conventional types of applesauce,” Dr. Landry said. “Apples do contain a significant amount of sugar, but when the whole apple is eaten, including the skin, the fiber moderates the amount and rate of sugar absorption in your body.”
One medium apple with skin contains 20 percent of the daily fiber recommendation, as well as vitamin A and C, calcium, and iron, according to The United States Department of Agriculture.
Dr. Landry feels that the school should share its access to this abundance of nutritious local apples with the underprivileged community through donations to food pantries, where fresh produce is limited.
“It seems to me that if we have access to these very local apples, it would be great for the community to use them or share them with others,” Dr. Landry says.
Even if Sacred Heart decides to donate its surplus apples, the trees will still bear enough fruit for students, faculty, and wildlife to enjoy.
“It would be a fun tradition for students to take a walk during break to get a freshly-picked snack. It would also be important to treat the apple trees with care, picking only those apples that you intend to eat, and saving the rest for everyone to enjoy,” Dr. Landry said.
-Elizabeth Bachmann, Co-Features Editor