Suburban Foraging

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Fri, Jan 15, 2016 - 2:48pm

So you're on a budget and trying to make ends meet, and food is a big expense. You might have planted a fruit or nut tree and are waiting for it to start yielding, or you might be renting or not have room for a tree. Yet some of your neighbors have apple, pear, cherry, apricot, avocado, citrus, nut trees (or whatever) where most of the food falls to the ground and rots. How can you harvest that bounty?

The first step? Be aware of what's growing around you. This year start noticing where people have fruit and trees. If it's something you want, knock on the door and politely ask if you can take some. I've had a polite refusal because someone else harvests the tree, but usually they are happy to get rid of the extra fruit that will fall and mess up their yard. This is doubly true of very messy things like black walnuts, whose outer casing stains anything it touches. But, hey - homemade black walnut ice cream is the bomb!

Not someone's property? Make sure you are not trespassing on what looks like a vacant lot, and if the space is open to the public like a park make sure there are no laws against picking things.

Come ready to work. Wear gloves! I suggest you bring at least a six-foot A-frame ladder, so you can reach more. And bring a buddy to safety-spot you on that ladder and share the pickings. Laundry baskets are great for bringing home your haul. Discard any bruised fruit; squirrels have to eat, too. Recommendations: pick pears while still green and let them ripen indoors. Don't pick more than you can use unless you have a charity to take them; food banks NEVER get enough produce and will bless you for anything you can bring.

Use and preserve it. There is nothing like fresh fruit and fresh nuts so enjoy some right away, but the bulk will be best saved for later.  You can freeze many fruits, but I for texture reasons I especially like to do that with berries and sliced peaches. Frozen foods last six months. High-acid fruit can be canned in a water bath canner, or made into jams and jellies. Shelled nuts can be pan roasted with a little oil or dry roasted in the oven; if put in hot jars while warm they will will seal and last a year, like other home-canned foods. Or you can dehydrate your sliced fruit, which makes the last for several years if done correctly. Some foods even taste better dehydrated: figs and apricots, especially. The main thing to keep in mind is how much you'll use in six months for frozen things and a year for canned things.

Give back. Bring the person who let you pick from their tree(s) something you made with their harvest. Suggestions: For pears I like to bring the person some ginger-pear sauce. For apples, a pie is always welcome. For nuts, I make an ice cream nut toping with syrup. Friends of mine in Arizona make marmalade and bring the tree's owner a jar. Tell them you'll be back next year if that's all right with them. I've yet to have anyone say no.

Don't be shy: most fruit tree owners are thrilled that someone is going to use their produce and  love the fact that when you're done their lawn will be cleaner. I have a girlfriend who is a pediatrician who regularly harvest cherries from a neighbor and gives them a jar of preserves in return. It's actually embarrassing we as a society let all that food go to waste!

2 Comments

gnltabor's picture
gnltabor
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 21 2010
Posts: 23
Foraging

For those interested in locating fruit for foraging, I'd recommend checking out www.fallingfruit.org the urban foraging website where edible food is located on a map.  You can post entries or use entries to find opportunitites in your area.

gnltabor's picture
gnltabor
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 21 2010
Posts: 23
Foraging

For those interested in locating fruit for foraging, I'd recommend checking out www.fallingfruit.org the urban foraging website where edible food is located on a map.  You can post entries or use entries to find opportunitites in your area.

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