Free Fruit for the Food Bank

Melinda at One Green Generation was the first person I'd heard of planting a portion of her garden for the local food bank. The idea was revolutionary and Melinda has been a Superhero of ingenuity to me ever since.

More recently Audrey at Eat Local Northwest has planted a portion of her community garden space for the food bank. I love reading of her trips delivering her donations and most especially the man who greets her and accepts them.

Until last Friday I'd counted myself out of being able to participate in the goodwill of sharing fresh food with our local food bank. That is until I remembered the plums in our yard. There are a lot of them and they're good.

I made plum jam last weekend determined to not let the free fruit go to waste. Two jars of plum jam. It took forever. The plums are small and had to be pain stakingly separated from their skin and pit to the point I don't want to make more. But we can't eat all the fruit on the tree.

I called the food bank. They would love the plums. The delivery times are impossible; exactly during working hours but that's not going to stop me. I've got ideas; one of which I'm sure will work.


Jenn said...

Plum is so easy! You don't have to separate a darned thing. Wash those little fruits, throw them all in to the pot - whole. Smash them hard with your hand as you put them into the pot or use a potato masher to smash them up.

Turn on the heat and start low so that the juice comes out of the fruit. As the pot fills up with juice, you can smash them a bit more, turn up the heat and add more plums.

Once the plums are all nice and goopy, let it cool a bit.

Find the biggest sieve you can locate -- put two or three layers of damp, clean cheescloth (NOT a dishtowel) into the sieve over a large pot or bowl, then dump the whole plum mess into that.

You can stir it gently to get more juice to go into the dish below or leave it overnight to drain.

Use that juice to make plum jelly. If you want it more clear, put it through a jelly sock (sheer nylon bag -- looks like the same material used for sheer curtains).

It's super easy -- a big bucket of plums will yield a couple gallons of juice and all you gotta do is put it in the pot, add the sugar and pectin and put it in jars when it is done.

Much easier than making jam with little fruits -- the skins impart a nice color, too. :)

Jenn said...

Oops - also meant to add -- great idea about contributing to the food bank!

Unfortunately, our local foodbank doesn't take fresh, only packaged.

knutty knitter said...

Even better just call it jam and let the eaters take their own stones out :)

I gave up that sort of prep years ago - I do pick them out for littlies but big kids do their own.

I preserve them for breakfast fruit the same way just with less/no sugar.

viv in nz

Anonymous said...

Awesome Katrina! Here in Seattle there is a community garden - gardened by volunteers - where everything is donated to the local food bank system. The gardeners will also come and pick extra fruit & veggies anyone has - if they're called. You may have something like this in the Bay Area?

Also when I worked with the Master Gardeners in Sonoma County, people would call and ask if someone would come pick their produce and take them to the food bank. Usually the Master Gardeners were happy to do so.

So if your other ideas don't work, you might try one of those avenues.

It makes me smile to think of myself as a "Superhero of ingenuity" - thank you for that!!

Chile said...

That's great that you're donating to them. A friend yesterday just remarked to me that she was going to call the gleaners to clean off her grapefruit tree.

Katrina, I've got an award for you. Come on over!

Unknown said...

I'm going to have to remember this idea when I'm planting my garden next spring! It's almost too late this year. I'm sure our local food bank would appreciate some fresh veggies!

Donna said...

What a great idea! Thanks for spreading the word -- maybe more people will do that, too!

Anonymous said...

Katrina, thanks for the mention. I'm psyched that you're giving your fruit to the food bank and smiling just to imagine what Matt at our food bank would say to someone bearing a wheelbarrow's worth of plums.

Green Bean said...

What a great idea! We spent two VERY hot days trying to make jam from my parents overburdened prune tree. Wish I'd had Jennconspiracy's directions then, ahem. In any event, it never occured to me to try to donate them to the local food bank. Brilliant!

Kale for Sale said...

jenn c.- You do make it sound so easy. This time though the food bank got the plums. The plums got the best of me the first time and I didn't have it in me to do another round this soon. Next time I'll be ready with my masher and cheesecloth though. Thanks.

knutty knitter viv in nz - What a great name. You've got me thinking. Stewed plums for breakfast are always one of my favorite things on retreat and I'm with you I don't care about the pits. There are still some on the tree I can experiment with. Thanks for the idea and for stopping by.

melinda - I'm glad you're smiling. Seattle is awesome. I'm going to check around to see if there are any fruit picking gardeners. It's a grand idea. I'll post any volunteer services I find. As I think about I'll just call the food bank. They'll obviously know. Take three superhero laps around your block. You've done it again, Melinda.

chile - How do you call the gleaners? I know we have some around here but they keep a low profile, which is a shame. Then again I'm in an office all day so what do I know. Maybe they don't. I actually got a good appreciation for fruit pickers tonight getting the plums off the tree. The little bit I did was fun but it could have become un-fun really quick if I'd had to do it in the hot sun all day.

Thanks for the award Chile. I like getting an award from you.

bobbi - I bet they would. From the comments not all food banks take fresh food but it would be worth asking. The people at the one near by me have been so nice.

donna - I hope so too. You tell five people in the next three days and I will too and then they'll each tell five people and well, it would take a while, but all the food that is eaten instead of wasted on the ground is a step in the right direction.

green bean - It was more about being spent than brilliance but thanks. And look at the memories you'll have of making the jam (and sweltering) with your Mom. Those will be the jam jars of perserverence. Delicious, I'm sure.

Chile said...

To call the gleaners, Katrina, first you do have to find some. There are a couple of organizations in my area, including the Food Bank.

Your Food Bank may know how to best contact some as they are often the beneficiaries of such programs.

ib mommy said...

Hi! Our Master Gardeners participate in Plant a Row for the Hungry. I'm leaving a link to the post I wrote just so I don't have to write it all again:)

ib mommy said...

ack! sorry, the l got left off of html at the end!

Jenn said...

I have pictures up now... but I need to take pictures of the entire process. As you can see, I used the hot water bath canner... I have some pictures of plum jelly making from last year, too.

Chile said...

Oh my gosh, that's a LOT of plums, Jenn!

Watch for a similar prickly pear fruit processing photo series on my blog in a couple of days. (Glochid-free, hopefully!)

Kale for Sale said...

audrey - I don't know how I missed you yesterday. I cracked up about a wheelbarrow of plums. There weren't quite that many. A friend delivered the plums this morning on her way to work and called afterwards saying, "The eagle has landed." Maybe you had to have been there but we cracked up.

chili - Thanks for the gleaners info. I'm staying tuned for the prickly pear processing. You have always got something interesting going on down there in the hot country.

ib - Thanks for your post and link on Plant A Row For The Hungry. I'd never heard of it before.

jenn - Those are exactly the kind of plums I have. Nice looking jars of jelly.

Rhonda Jean said...

I've just found your blog. It looks like a keeper. : - )

I manage our local neighbourhood house as part of my community work. This year we started a permaculture garden and invite our low income and disadvantaged people to take home fresh vegetables as well as the staples we buy for them. It's a wonderfully cost effective way of supplying the fresh food we all need.

It's fabulous you're going to give your plums to your local community. At our place, really fresh fruit is difficult to get over the seasons. We often have a box of avocados, limes, ginger or oranges sitting at our front door with a "take me" sign.

I wish there were more people like you around.

Kale for Sale said...

rhonda jean - You sound like a keeper too. There are lots of me. They likely don't spend all their evenings in front of a lap top though.

We have a neighbor with a pear tree that fills a box at the front gate with the fruit and a sign that says please take. It's one of my favorite stops on a summer walk as it sounds like your house is for people in your neighborhood.