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Chat Leftovers: A thorny question

Have you weighed in yet? Now and during today's Free Range chat, when Food staffers usually answer questions from readers, we're turning the tables by asking a question of our own: Are farmers market tomatoes way too expensive, or are they worth every penny?

It's a perfect accompaniment to today's tomato-centric section, in which we report the results of the 2010 Top Tomato contest (and give you the winning recipes), explain why you might want to make homemade ketchup when you can buy Heinz, and watch chef Gerard Pangaud whip up delicious desserts starring you-know-what.

Joining the chat today will be guest Dean Gold, owner of Dino in Cleveland Park and no slouch when it comes to tomatoes: They've been putting up hundreds of pounds of them at the restaurant this summer. So be there, or be square. And square is definitely un-tomato-like. See you at 1.

Meanwhile, here's a leftover question from a past chat about another kind of round fruit:

I purchased a home last year and this year have found a tree with apples growing on it. However, my apple tree/bush has huge, long thorns. I always thought that made it a bad sign to eat. Do you know of any apple trees with thorns on them, and what kind it might be, and if it’s safe to eat?

It's fun to move into a new place with a yard and then wait to see what comes up. In one past house, my first big surprise was when an elegant-looking tree in my new back yard turned out to be a beautiful old quince tree that became loaded with fruit. My second big surprise was that the quinces were a lot more trouble than they were worth: hard as rocks to slice into, and not terribly versatile, recipe-wise. Live and learn.

But enough about me. Let's get on to you. My advice: Don't start rolling out the pie dough just yet.

What first popped into my mind when you described the tree was that it could be a crabapple. Then I consulted ace gardening columnist Adrian Higgins, and he suggested it could be a flowering quince (more like a bush, not the same as my big tree) or a hawthorn.

Regardless of which of the three it might be, none of them bears a fruit that you can just pick and eat -- or bake into pies, for that matter. The fruits are small, and about all they're good for is jams, jellies, preserves, maybe the occasional chutney.

(One other possibility: I've read that wild apple trees can have thorns. Seems like a long shot, but worth considering.)

It seems like this tree's best role will be ornamental. and the variety won't really matter. But if you still want a definitive identification, cut off a long twig with leaves (and fruit, if possible) and take it to a local garden center that sells trees. The experts there should be able to help.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  August 11, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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