Last year I had my first real experience gleaning when I realized my neighbor had a pear tree filled with fruit that was otherwise going unused. I gathered probably 40 gallons of pears. It was too much in the end but still, I felt like I put the fruit to good use. My family appreciated their ginger pear chutney and salted caramel pear butter in their Christmas baskets and I appreciated it even more.
This wonderful experience has given me a new addiction though. It is at this time of year, while I am driving, walking or riding bike, I am constantly scanning the green trees for fruit. Seriously. I sometimes turn up streets when I think I see something from the corner, just to verify if it is a fruit tree or not. I have kept a spreadsheet with ‘places to watch’ to see if they are fruit bearing trees that no one is harvesting. If someone is actually harvesting their fruit, Excellent! But if not, let’s not let it rot into the ground if someone could actually use it. I have moved from a spreadsheet to a more public option. I have started posting my foraging opportunities to a map on fallingfruit.org. There are a few other sites that allow you to post foraging opportunities but I like this one because you can post trees on private property that overhang on public spaces. Also, you don’t have to have an account to add or edit a marker. This means you too can add to the map! (NPR had a good article that references this site too)
A week ago, the kids were out with me and I had a few extra minutes to spare so we stopped at the apple tree I had been eyeing up. It is at the corner of the medical complex parking lot and the office isn’t open on the weekends. I left the kids in the car and parked right under the tree. I found a bounty of fallen apples. Yes, I’m sure I could have actually picked from the tree itself but I’m not too good to glean. After the first grocery bag was full Rosie started yelling from the car that she wanted to help. I gave her a bag and we continued on. Completely unprompted from me, Rosie totally said “it’s ok if the apples have a little nibble on them (from a worm), it’s still ok”. Yes. Yes you are correct my little progeny.
After 3 grocery bags full we had gleaned everything that was glean-able. We took them home and washed them and I have been processing them for the last week. So far I have made curried apple chutney and vanilla rum apple butter. I decided to visit the tree again today and this time I weighed my haul once I got home. 30 pounds…..of free apples. Between the 2 harvests I am guessing I have gotten between 60 and 70 pounds (20+ gallons). I will definitely dry some of these but I’m still searching for more yummy recipes. Have any to share?