The ugliest apple I’ve seen is the best apple I’ve eaten.
Knobbed russet. It’s hard to grow. And when it does, it’s lumpy and welted, brown and yellow, deformed and diseased looking, like it could make you very sick.
You have to travel to find it. Not as far as Eden, but nearly. For me, it was 500 miles north to a farm in the corner of Vermont, just up a twisty road from the green shingled house where Kipling wrote Captains Courageous.
While many beautiful, gleaming apples are born and bred in university labs, no clear-eyed person would make something as ugly and untamed as the knobbed russet. It comes from the earth of Sussex, England, first brought to the London Horticultural Society by a fellow named Hasper Capron in 1819.
I don’t know anything about Mr. Capron other than this: he must have known that we don’t have to take the world in with just our eyes alone.
So, because of him and because of the knobbed russet’s sheer will to exist, I stood in Vermont 200 years later with this apple in my palm, an apple small enough that I could see my lifeline snaking out past its lumps and welts.
But under those lumps and welts is this singular taste: it’s knockout sweet, spiced and comforting, like eating autumn.
And there in Vermont, this little apple blew open my definition of beauty. Made it wider, wilder, less gleaming. And I drove home down that twisty road thinking that maybe beauty is running rampant and the world just asks us to pay attention with every sense we’ve got – perhaps other than common sense – to be present for it.