Gleaning apples

Gleaning is a wonderful way to get things for free! And last week a friend introduced me to a place just brimming with organic apples, free for the picking. It’s in a large public park in our city, out in the country a bit. In a far off corner, she discovered that there was a small grove of apple trees.

Not ones to miss out on an opportunity like this, we both packed up our toddler and baby and headed out for a morning of apple picking. I’m sure we were quite a site, her precariously perched up on these ancient branches, and me attempting to catch and juggle the apples as she threw them down (or just shook the tree so much that they came tumbling down all at once!). I wish I had remembered my camera to take a picture of us, or of our 3 year olds munching on apple after apple, or trying to feed them to my little baby (probably wouldn’t have done much harm, he could have only gummed it, I suppose).

I didn’t think to pull out my camera until most of the apples had already been made into applesauce, but my darling hubby reminded me that I should post about my find. This pic is the remaining apples after I made several litres of applesauce, and my daughter had probably eaten more than 10 herself.


Aside from them being free, the best part of it all was that they organic, untouched and virtually unknown to anyone! I guarantee, we’ll be back next fall!

It got me thinking about what else could be had through gleaning. One thing that we try to take advantage of (in fact, my husband practically counts down the days until they’re ripe) is local wild blackberries. In our area, blackberries grow like weeds (literally, we actually had a small bush in our backyard that I had to get cut down before it started to take over the whole garden area). We go picking as much as we can during the 3-4 weeks that they are in peak season, and freeze whatever we don’t eat fresh or in a scrumptious blackberry crumble (steaming hot, tart and sweet at the same time, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sigh… I can’t wait for summer again).

Is there anything in your area that grows naturally that you could glean? Berries are a common one, and many parks have old apple trees that people just don’t realize are there or free for the picking. Depending on where you live, what about rhubarb, nuts, other tree fruits (cherries, plums), even herbs (of course, you need to know exactly what you are looking for so you don’t pick the wrong thing, but they often grow wild- when we visited Rome we learned that Palatine Hill is covered in a variety of cooking herbs!).

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  1. Our area (Southern Arizona) is terrific for gleaning all kinds of citrus fruits, cactus pads and fruit, mesquite beans, stone fruits, dates, olives and lot of deserts herbs like sage. I often think that even if we couldn’t afford any fresh produce at all, we’d be fine between what we grow and what could be gleaned throughout the year!

  2. Great job on finding these apples! Growing up we would pick buckets and buckets of wild blackberries-along roads, railroad tracks down by the river-they were free to anyone who cared to pick! When we got older, my brother and I made a good amount of money by selling them to family and friends.

  3. When I was growing up we harvested quite a bit of wild fruit, plums, Muscadine grapes, blackberries, crabapples, even peaches that had been left behind on abandoned farms. All the areas are so overgrown now that I am afraid to go into there because rattlesnakes are a real concern in that area. I miss all that blackberry jelly and jam and the cobblers. I haven’t found anyplace around here to harvest any wild fruit. Maybe I need to ask around.

  4. I think it’s a great find, but since it’s in a public park, there’s a good chance the trees were sprayed. Apple trees are horrible for attracting insects, and if they are not sprayed rarely produce fruit as perfect as the ones you picked. Gleaning is a neat strategy, but far from being organic, you have to accept a certain amount of uncertainty and risk in your pickings. You don’t really know the history of the area. I would go for it–just wanted to caution you about your assumption that the apples are organic. I would at least wash them thoroughly.

  5. Nice term! I had never thought of it as gleaning before! Where I now live (southwest Colorado), there are also plenty of apples to glean, from public property, and people who don’t use as much as their trees produce. My family has several bags of frozen cider, and lots of processed jars full of it and applesauce too thanks to that. Wild asparagus is another thing we have been allowed to glean in people’s property, and by the roadside. 🙂

  6. Catherine, great points. I was using the term organic quite loosely, which I really shouldn’t. You’re right that there is a risk in gleaning, not knowing the details of an area. As for the particular ones I picked, the picture actually showed the best ones left for straight eating, but most of the others were smaller or had parts that needed to be cut off. The park where I picked them from is not really much of a park, but more of a wildlife area, in a preserved setting in the country. It is not manicured in the slightest, and it would appear that the trees most certainly did attract bugs! 🙂 Hence my comment that they were organic, but thank you for the correction- they merely appeared organic and certainly may not have been.
    And as for washing fruit, another great point. Any produce, organic or not, should be thoroughly washed. Thanks for keeping me accountable with my word choice!

    Heather- I would love to be able to get free asparagus! What a find!

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