Piper’s Orchard Apple Tart
October 10th, 2012
After summer was just over, but before we ran out of sunny weekends, Brian & I decided to hike in Carkeek Park, in our neighborhood of Seattle. Here are more pictures of the park, but you won’t believe the orchard and history we stumbled into, and the apple tart it led to!
On our hike through the park, we were pleasantly surprised to find historic Piper’s Orchard, now preserved by the Seattle Parks Department and a group of volunteers, Friends of Piper’s Orchard. We had no idea this living pioneer history still existed in Seattle, and it was so alive – in the form of heirloom fruit trees – apple, pear, chestnut, cherry, and so on.
Andrew Piper, a Bavarian, was a pioneer baker in Seattle. His wife, Wilhelmina grew the orchard, and he baked the apples into his pastries (his apple strudel was famous, of course!). Andrew Piper was also an early political cartoonist, who served on the City Council and even ran for mayor. He lost his bakery in the Great Fire, and after some years their orchard was lost, too. Decades later, in the 1980s it was rediscovered, and restoration began soon after. Out of the 82 trees growing there today, 30 were originally planted by the Piper family.
Daphne Lewis was the landscape architect who rediscovered the orchard and helped restore it. She said, “I have a vision of this being a beautiful place for picnics or educational visits. It should be an arboretum to showcase rare old varieties of fruit planted by the pioneers. Edible history.” Her vision could not have been better realized.
In fact, the first thing we did when we happened on the orchard was to have a little picnic. We had packed a lunch for our hike, having no idea what we would find. It was a sunny Seattle day, so naturally others were doing the same, one person was meditating, and many others were stopping by just to pick apples. There was also an art exhibit in the orchard and all throughout the park, some of which you see here in my photos.
By the time we arrived, we had missed the main apple harvest, and Piper Orchard’s annual festival of fruit, but there were still many apples on the trees. We collected a couple handfuls and went on hiking. Over the next few days, I turned those apples into this delicious Meme’s Apple Tart by Pépin (I replaced shortening with butter & added cinnamon). I shared them with our Bavarian-American family, who got to Seattle first! If I had read the Piper family history before baking, perhaps I would’ve made strudel :)
[click on the images to view them larger]