Urban Food Gleaning July 08, 2015 08:28

I think every apartment dweller dreams of having a chunk of land, and I know my daydream land is already totally populated by imaginary fruit trees, lush gardens, and tasty berry bushes. I always say to myself "One day, I'll have a persimmon tree," or "I'm totally going to plant some apples and espalier them into a fence!". That future acreage is a bountiful one! In the meantime though, how's a girl to satisfy those cravings for fresh, local food? Yes, I can hit up the farmer's market, or go U-picking, but I've discovered an even better way.

Free Fruit!

Two years ago, friends and I happened to park in a public lot and when we looked up, noticed we had parked directly under a massive apple tree. The fruit was at perfect ripeness, and the tree was firmly rooted on public land. We snagged a couple apples and continued on our way, but the fruit was so tasty we couldn't get it out of our minds. Three days later we went back with a fruit picking pole and grabbed as many of the apples as we could. The only sad part of that wonderful experience for me was that as we harvested, we offered apples to everyone who went by. With the exception of one elderly lady (whose grandson tried to stop her!) everyone refused. People didn't trust food that didn't come to them in a plastic package from the grocery store. 

City Pickings

Last year, I started trolling craigslist, looking for similar scores. I found a guy with a massive crabapple tree who was offering free crabapples to anyone who would come pick them. A friend and I loaded up our trusty fruit picking pole and set out. Two hours later we had 36lbs of fruit, and a few days later I had 27 jars of crabapple jelly. I'm still giving those away as gifts!

Kate's Cans

The really cool part about all of this is that I shared photos of these scores on social media, and I immediately started to get a reputation for being the perfect person to give stuff away to. A friend with overly enthusiastic red currant bushes called me over to help her harvest, my cousin dropped off a huge bag of figs from her tree, and even my neighbour hung a sack of plums over the fence with a note saying she thought I could use them. I've been gifted 10lbs of lavender (which got turned into syrup!), a bag of half rotten apples (my first attempt at apple cider), a bucket of pears (pear butter!) and all sorts of other tasty fruits that would have otherwise gone to waste. In turn, I make sure everyone who gifts me some food gets back some of what I made out of it - everyone wins. So, the next time you're daydreaming about making grape jelly from your own grapes, go look to your community. There is abundance there, if you know how to see!

Currant-ly awesome

Written By Kate Dryden