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Leb wohl, mein lieber Pfirsichbaum!

In his essay Der Pfirsichbaum (The Peach Tree), Hermann Hesse mourns the loss of a peach tree due to a storm, commenting on the fragile nature of this species and expressing his disappointment that trees don’t behave much differently than human beings.

Sie werden ja nicht sehr alt, diese Bäume, und gehören nicht zu den Riesen und Helden, sie sind zart und anfällig, gegen Verletzungen überempfindlich, ihr herziger Saft hat etwas von alten, überzüchtetem Adelsblut…Ach, daß auch auf Bäume kein Verlaß ist, daß auch sie einem abhanden kommen, einem wegsterben, einen eines Tages im Stich lassen und ins große Dunkel hinüber verschwinden können!

(They don’t become very old, these trees, and are not among the giants and heroes, they are tender and delicate and oversensitive to injuries, their sweet juice has something of old overbred noble blood…Oh, there is no relying on trees either, they are also lost to you, they die on you, one day they abandon you and disappear into the great darkness beyond!)

When Goethe died in 1832, he left behind a to-do list for his garden. Point 4 reads: “Ausgraben der ausgestorbenen Pfirsichbäume und Vorbereitung der Löcher zur Weinanpflanzung daselbst.” (Unearth the dead peach trees and prepare the holes for the planting of vines.)

On the subject of death, decay, and impermanence, the word crumble means to disintegrate into small pieces or to break down completely. It also refers to a delightful dessert of fresh fruit covered with a topping that is baked. Toppings vary greatly. I make lots of crumbles, and they always include rolled oats. Lately the composition of my topping has become even more minimalistic, not much more than oats and butter, though you could also add flour, nuts, or sugar. Don’t rely on the following crumble sticking around long – it is ephemeral and will disappear swiftly!

Peach-Port Crumble

Ingredients

1 kilo (1/2 lb.) peaches, peeled and sliced

2 Tbs cornstarch

50 ml (¼ c) port wine

180 g (2 c) rolled oat flakes and/or rolled spelt flakes

½ ts cardamom

½ ts salt

80 g (6 Tbs) melted butter

Arrange the sliced peaches in a tart or pie pan.


In a small glass, dissolve the cornstarch in the port. Pour over the peaches and stir to coat.

Mix the rolled oats, cardamom, and salt. Add the melted butter. Spoon the topping onto the fruit.

Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 25-30 minutes.

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