Free Fruit

There's a house not far from me, brown shingles, faded white picket fence, old red dog on the porch, that has an even older pear tree in the front yard. And during pear season the residents, I'm sure they are gnome like, put the excess pears in a basket at the fence with a handwritten sign to help yourself.

I always grab a few for art and eating but it's the generosity and kindness that make me smile and hug the fruit close.

It's taken five years but I've woken up to the free fruit in my own fenced in yard. I've disregarded the plums, apples, the gnarled apricot branch stretched across the fence as nuisances instead of jam or cobbler. Instead of food.

In my defense the neighbors apples mostly drop before they're ripe but with sugar or honey this year I can make sauce.

And last year I did collect plums and carried bags of them to work but I wasn't serious. This year I'm getting a ladder. The guys next door are thrilled. "Take all you want," they told me, "We can only can so many."

I'm working up my courage to approach the neighbors on the other side that have a neglected miniature orchard behind their condo building. There's a lemon tree there with fruit the size of tennis balls and I may have spotted peaches too. It pains me that they aren't being enjoyed.

With all the fruit dropping from the trees in my small yard, a mostly unlikely spot, I wonder how much food is dropping unheeded in the community at large. That isn't being recognized as food. The thought inspires me to start my own gnome like neighborhood tradition. To tend to the untended and get out the ladder and fill a basket or three or five to perch out front with a handmade sign that invites passersby to please, stop and help yourself.

Is there unclaimed fruit or food in your yard or neighborhood? Or does everything get used and/or shared?


Chile said...

Get an apple picker! Lehman's has them. This makes it easy, and safe, to harvest fruit that is high in the tree, even in the middle.

Green Bean said...

Absolutely there is food dropping in my neck of the woods. Mostly it is in back yards, hidden from sight. I think most people view this as a nuisance. Even I, I admit, don't eat all of the oranges from my orange tree. They're bitter! I probably need to fertilize or something but in the meantime a friend suggested I juice them and then make sorbet or something with sugar to make up for the bitter flavor. It worked!

Last fall, I emailed out my mothers' club and asked if anyone had apples that they didn't want. I got about 5 or 6 responses. I dozens of apples, made tons of apple juice and even more apple butter that we are still enjoying. That turned out to be a great way to turn someone else's nuisance into my gain. I even left all those people some homemade apple butter. I'm hoping this year they won't be so quick to share and may want to enjoy a few of their apples themselves.

Theresa said...

There is probably food going to waste around me, but up here in Zone 2a it is harder to spot. Well, I can't spot it anyway. There are saskatoon berries and wild raspberries here and there, and some chokecherry trees in some city boulevards. There are probably some apple trees that just drop their apples unnoticed by anyone. Actually, my brother has a tree like that at his house - I could get some from him I'm sure. I remember when I lived on BC's Vancouver Island, there were blackberries everywhere! Juicy sweet, sun-warmed purple berries all over the place! I would gorge myself, but most people from there consider them weeds. All I know is that they taste way better than dandelions!

Kale for Sale said...

Chile - You are brilliant. I would have wrangled with that ladder, cursed and who knows what. Thank you.

green bean - I should have had kids so I could have a mom's list! But I have co-workers, friends and family. I'm putting the word out. Thanks for the inspiration.

And the orange sorbet is very smart.

theresa - I'm with you. I bet there's a lot of food out there somewhat hidden or ignored that we aren't utilizing. I'm flipping my mind over to find it and use it.

I picked wild blackberries as a kid at my great grandmothers house. Unforgetable. They're harder to find wild these days.

But I've never eaten a dandelion. Kendra @ Sonoma Garden says they make good tea though.

Anonymous said...

I've gotten to be known as the 'person who will take any extra homegrown fruit or vegetables' in my office -- it's wonderful! I've made some many things from the unwanted extras of my coworkers -- marmalades, infused liquors, pies, fruit butters, pickles, & more.

I'm still working up the courage to knock on the doors of some of the houses along my bicycle route to work that have an abundance of persimmons, apples, and quince come fall...

Donna said...

You wouldn't think wild blackberries are hard to find if you lived in Oregon -- you'd think they're hard to get rid of!

When I was growing up we had a fig tree that we paid high school kids to clean up every year and never ate a single fig! We also had an orange tree and when the oranges were too tart to eat, we'd juice them and add a couple store-bought oranges to the mix to sweeten it up. Fresh orange juice was such a treat that to this day it is a requirement for Christmas breakfast.

Anonymous said...

We have a lot of random wasted fruit trees here in Sonoma. Since this is an agricultural town, the old timers planted tons of fruit trees in there yards. Now that city folks and other out of towners are moving in they are completely ignoring these beautiful old apple, plum and nectarine trees. It's such a shame.

We have a cherry plum tree that hangs over our fence that traditionally is thought of as a weed type of tree. Or maybe just an ornamental tree. But we've been making jam out of it for the past few years. It's delicious.

Green beans idea of sending out a mass e-mail asking for unused fruit is a great idea!

Oh, I don't know if you would like to participate, but I tagged you. Feel free to play along if you like:

Kale for Sale said...

jen - Getting the extra homegrown foods is like having a CSA bag. You never know what you'll get and you have to be creative in a defined period of time. Which it sounds like you are in spades!

I'll make you a deal - I'll go to my neighbors if you go to yours? Well, maybe we could just wait until we see them already in the yard and then ask. That would be easier. I would have been a bad Avon lady.

donna - It's so funny. I don't know what that thing is that has us sometimes take for granted food that drops in our yard as not being real somehow. I love figs and can't imagine letting them be cleaned up instead of eaten. But then I've let those damn apples drop in my yard for years. There's no difference.

Great idea on the oranges to add a few store bought to sweeten them up. I could probably do that with the apples - mix them up with some sweet ones. Thank you.

kendra - Of course. You're in a great area for unused fruit as you put it (I love that description!). I keep thinking there's got to be a way to harness all that nourishment that's dropping to the ground from all the back yard trees across the country. Your cherry plum jam sounds like a great start.

And thanks for the tag.

Christina said...

There is plenty of fruit that goes to waste around here, but there is also plenty that gets consumed. In LA, we have the Fallen Fruit Collaborative ( that takes on the wasted food issue, and closer to my home, COFEA has recently sprung up, which is an exchange of home-grown produce. People are waking up to their local bounties.

Kale for Sale said...

Christina - I am so excited to know that there are organizations/structres that communities are using to capture this food. Thank you for telling me. I would hug you if you were here. I'm going to go check the information out now.

Anonymous said...

As a child, I grew so upset with my grampa for giving away our grapefruit size lemons and gigantic avocados - but as I have grown and matured, I began understanding why he would hang bags and bags of lemons and avocados. You can only use so many and give away so many to friends and family before they become a burden. It thrills me to know there are others as generous as my grampa :)

Drayke said...

Got more fruit than you can use? Harvest and give to the food bank or the local food closet close by. Find out distribution day and drop it by that morning. Larger food banks have facilities and may be able to store.

Wyzard0001 said...

In this area there is a group called Second Harvest. Volunteers pick leftover fruit from ag growers as well as homeowners who don't pick their own trees. Central valley of Cal. is an agricultural wonderland, so there is usually an abundance of fruit leftover after the commercial harvest.