Toddlers in Nature II: Apples to Apples

Boo Bobs

Tonguing — I mean, bobbing for apples at the party

We went to a Halloween party yesterday at a ranch house in the East Bay hills. Boobaby’s friend EJ has spent her two young years living one of those idyllic kid existences I thought had disappeared: she lives in a canyon surrounded by blackberries, jays, coyotes, redwoods, horses, free-running dogs, and, at the center of it all, a fig tree.

Now Boobaby likes figs, but she’s always had them cut up and certainly never knew a tree to bear one. So I showed her a fruit-laden branch, pulled one down and opened it, and let her taste the flesh. Lightbulb! “Fiks!” she shouted and looked up at the tree with newfound wonder.

Of course, Boo already knew that blackberries grow on vines, and spent one memorable day making me pull down berries, crackers, cheese, and water bottles from a tree before she would touch them. But that was a game — yesterday’s discovery of figs in trees was nothing short of an epiphany.

Our playground gardener David put a crabapple in a few months ago, and it’s just starting to bear its winter fruit. Today, I pointed them out to Boo. She pondered them for a minute and finally shouted “apple!”

It felt like we’d made it to the end of a long road. Over a year ago Boo was gumming applesauce; then she ate peeled apple chunks and later, slices. Now she’ll eat a whole apple. And, finally, Boo knows from her city nature lesson this week that all those stages of “apple” (not to mention figs, oranges, and loquats) all grow on… get this… trees!

Now that I think of it, maybe we haven’t quite written the end of this story — the final step, next spring perhaps, will be to plant a seed, watch it grow, and finally eat what it brings. But for this year, anyway, Boo’s made her breakthrough: food grows on plants outdoors.

My immediate challenge now is to convince her that not everything that grows on plants is edible!