Late summer produces a lot of fruit, much of which falls on the ground and turns to mush, fodder for bugs and birds. Sometimes it breaks my heart to drive past a yard and see tons of apples or plums on the ground, completely going to waste. That food could be eaten by people who can’t afford to buy fresh fruit. It could be made into jams or juice or preserved. Instead it becomes compost. As a poor student the sight of yards like this really irked me.
Since I was a brave girl back then, I wasn’t scared of going up to one of these houses and knocking on their door and politely asking if they planned to harvest their fruit, because if they didn’t I would be happy to harvest it for them. Yes, I was met with surprise, but they were always appreciative and of course they insisted I take some for myself and my roommates. They usually had a story to tell – too old, back too sore, busy lives, couldn’t eat it all – there’s always a good reason for not gathering perfectly good, usually organic, fruit.
Groups of people concerned about the waste produced by fruit trees every year have organized Fruit Tree Projects. Fruit tree owners contact the Project to say they have a tree or trees that need to be picked that will otherwise go to waste. Volunteers come to the owner’s house equppied with ladders, buckets and other equipment, and pick those trees until they are completely empty. Sometimes the owners have already picked all they can eat and donate all of the picked fruit to the Project. But otherwise, from when I volunteered for a Fruit Tree Project back in my university days, a third went to the owner, a third to the volunteers to split among themselves, and a third was taken to community centeres and food banks to be taken or distributed to those who needed it. If there were four volunteers picking and a laden tree to harvest, it was easy to go home with three full grocery bags of fruit. Quite enough to sustain one or two people for a month! And there was still always leftovers. My Fruit Tree Project people made cider out of it and sold it to raise money for the organization.
Fallen fruit is frugal eating.
So how can you get free fruit?
1. Offer to pick someone’s tree.
2. Volunteer at your local Fruit Tree Project, or start your own.
3. Put an ad in the paper offering to pick fruit trees for an exchange of a portion of the fruit. Then gather some friends to help and share in the bounty. Bring along the kids. (Just ask the owner for permission first). You’ll have more fruit than you’ll know what to do with.
4. Befriend your neighbours with fruit trees. In the past two weeks two sets of neighbours have come over with fruit and an open invitation to pick their trees! I received two bags of apples, two bags of pears, and a box of pears.
5. Head over to your local community center, which may host a free table for fruit (and other produce and baked goods too sometimes). This is different from a food bank. Anyone who wants something can take it, and they are usually begging for people to do so.
6. Pick berries and fruit when it grows on the side of the road. Along our street is a couple apple trees that don’t belong to anyone. Someone else got to them before me this year but I remember a couple year’s back, my daughter was hungry for a snack and we had just left our house and didn’t feel like turning around. So hubby stopped at the apple tree and picked her one and we were on our way!
7. Explore freeganism. “Freegan” is basically a nice term for dumpster divers who specifically dive for food tossed out by supermarkets; however, most of them do this for political reasons rather than out of need. I personally would not do this, but if you would like more information click the link. I believe many freegans who dumpster dive belong to The Food Not Bombs Movement and use the food to make meals for the homeless, thus making a statement about wasting food. Someone can always use it.
8. Plant your own fruit tree.
With my free pears from my neighbours, I made a yummy pear crisp that has the loveliest hint of nutmeg.
Honeyed Pear Crisp with Nutmeg
4-8 ripe pears, peeled and sliced (number depends on how fruity you like your crisp)
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup whole rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup dry natural sweetener
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened
Lightly grease a pie pan and place sliced pears inside. Drizzle with honey and lemon juice.
Combine all dry ingredients and then work the butter in with your hands until thoroughly mixed. Crumble topping on pear mixture.
Cook in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Serve with yogurt, whipped cream or ice cream.
This post is a part of the Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Carnival where frugal nourishing food is the name of the game. Head on over to Kimi’s blog to read some more fabulous posts and recipes on this subject. It is also squeezing its way into the Fight Back Friday Carnival over at Food Renegade. I’m so in love with these two food blogs. Go check them out.
Would you ever obtain fruit in any of these alternative ways? Have you? I’d love to hear your story!