Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall Gleaning

I'm really getting into this whole feed ourselves on the cheap thing. Last year we pressed cider from our own apples with a group of three other apple tree owners. It was a blast. This year our tree is bearing, but not quite as well as last year it seems. And at least one of the participants from last year is reporting that their tree is bearing very little this year - not enough to press for cider.

Some relatives of mine, however, told me that their neighbors have apple and pear trees from which they do not collect the fruit, and that the neighbors say the fruit is up for grabs. I stopped by their place yesterday morning with just a little time to spare before I had to start a full baking day. Ambitiously, I'd brought a 5-gallon bucket, but I wasn't even able to fill that much. I'll need to return with a ladder to get to the bulk of the apples, which are very high up. Still, I got about 4.5 pounds of apples and - even better - 3.5 pounds of bosc pears for about 10 minutes of "work." That was all I could easily reach with a small stepstool. It boggles my mind that the neighbors don't want these fruits. I suppose it's all to my benefit, and it's nice that they don't spray their trees.

It's true that the fruits have bruises and worm holes and even some pecks from birds. The fruit will need to be washed and the spoiled parts cut out. I guess I'm just not that fussy when it comes to free, local, unsprayed food. It makes me sad to think how many people would spurn this food just because it's not "perfect." Americans have a curiously inverted squeamishness about the food they eat. Apples with sooty mold (which is harmless and washes off easily) or worm holes are to be rejected. But meat from factory farms (sick, stressed animals in literally shitty environments) and high speed meat packing plants (dangerous, unhygienic conditions) is A-okay. I doubt I'll save these until we gather our own apples, which won't come in for at least another three weeks. Guess I'll have to figure out something yummy to make with them. I've had French apple gallette on the brain for a while. We'll see...

The apples from the top of that neighbor's tree will nicely supplement the crop from our one old apple tree. My relatives also have an old hickory tree. If I find the time I'll go poke around and see if the squirrels have overlooked any of the nuts. I might see if a post on craigslist will turn up more conveniently located gleaning opportunities. Can't hurt to ask.

I didn't really intend for this to be a frugal food blog. But I suppose, given my nearly pathological obsession with food, it shouldn't surprise me that it's going that way. I will try to work in a few posts that aren't directly related to eating, even though that's nearly always what's on my mind. It's about 6:30 in the morning as I write this and I'm acutely aware that I haven't yet decided what to have for dinner. Having so much food in a chest freezer does that to me. (I need lead time for thawing.)

Have a great weekend!


Anonymous said...

I don't know if they still hide in the forests by this time (where I live they are already gone*), but if you combine your apples with some brambles you can make delicious pastry, smoothies or desserts for next to nothing. I especially like apple dumplings with brambles. The berries really give an extra touch to the dumplings. Extra tip: It looks superchic when you make the pastry to look like an apple and add a little clove on top to be the stem. And it's so easy! (sorry for my possibly frightening enthousiasm)

*I live in the Hans Brinker country.

Kate said...

That sounds delicious, Nienke and your enthusiasm is encouraging rather than frightening. We may have a few areas where forest berries remain, but none that I know of. They are gone where I live too. But I do still have some in the freezer. Maybe I'll try your suggestion when our apples come in. By the way, I used to live in your general neighborhood of Europe. Thanks for stopping by!