One of my neighbours has an enormous apple tree practically dripping with fruit. The apples are apparently tart, and according to my neighbour, aren’t worth much. To me, those are pie apples just waiting to be exploited. I look at that tree and I see rows of pies, waiting to be baked. I asked my neighbour if I could take a few dozen when they were ready, and he practically begged me to. In his words, “that’s less I have to rake up and chuck in the compost”.
Music to my ears.
In the past two years I have acquired plums, apples, asian pears, pears, more rhubarb than I ever thought possible, and most recently, figs. Hallelujah, the figs. We’ve spent hours picking blackberries and harvested thimble berries and salmon berries too. I have not paid anything for these harvests, and have shared the final products (compotes, spreads, jams, jellies, fruit leather, dried fruit, pies, tarts… you name it) with the person who was kind enough to give me fruit. Here’s how you can too:
Learn what the fruit looks like when it’s growing. My sister in law is from the prairies, and she had never seen blackberries until she came for a visit to the coast. To her, blackberries were some speciality berry that came in a plastic box from California. When we showed her acres and acres of blackberry bushes, and regaled her with stories of controlled burning to get rid of them, her jaw dropped. Learn how to identify various fruit trees.
Go for walks around your neighbourhood. You see a lot more trees and bushes when you get out of your car. Take the bike or go for a few walks, and pinpoint those trees and bushes that might bear fruit.
Say hello to the owners and politely ask. Every time I have asked if I may have some of the harvest of the fruit tree, people are happy to share. Most fruit trees bear an incredible amount of fruit all at the same time, and there often simply isn’t enough time to eat it all fresh. A lot of owners are happy to see the fruits and berries get consumed. If the bushes or trees are on municipal or federal land, check the regulations for wild harvesting. Mushrooms, for example, have some rules about where you can and can’t pick freely.
Pay it forward. If I make jam, I pass on at least one jar to a friend and give another jar back to the people who shared their fruit with me. I also offer to teach people what I know (admittedly, a working knowledge only) of canning and home preserving. I freely loan out my food dehydrator when I’m not using it and I often invite friends over to “share the labour and share the reward”.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever made or tasted with fruit you were given?