Today's guest post comes one of my favorite people that I haven't been able to meet in person, Lisa from Vegan Cookbook Critic. I've also had the pleasure of having Lisa as a recipe tester for my upcoming cookbook. Today she talks about the exciting world of urban gleaning!
Yesterday, I found myself up a tree talking to a couple of strangers about pear sauce, pear chips, pear sorbet and pear crisp while filling our bags with sweet, yellow plums. The most surprising part of the exchange is that it took place in Toronto, Canada’s largest metropolis. In a city where office towers dominate the skyline a group of volunteers are reclaiming the forgotten fruit and establishing a sense of food security.
I’ve been involved with Not Far From the Tree for three seasons. Our urban gleaning work follows a model that is being replicated in cities all over the world. Homeowners register their fruit trees, a team of volunteers harvest the fruit and then we divide up the bounty. One third remains with the homeowner, one third is shared among the volunteers and one third is delivered to a direct service organization (homeless shelter, community food program, etc.). With minimal investment in a bike, a trailer and a few extendable fruit pickers we were able to glean 8000 lbs of fruit between May and October last year, this season we’ve almost reached 7000 lbs with months still to go.
The hours I’ve spent twisting an apple to the sky (to release it from the tree), navigating the city with a fruit-filled trailer and scaling branches weighed down with cherries has taught me more about my city and heritage food varieties than
anything else. I’ve picked cherries, apricots, mulberries, elderberries, grapes, pears, apples, plums, and peaches. Each pick inspires great culinary creativity as I yearn to
capture the incredible flavours of the harvest season. I’ve learned to dehydrate fruit leathers, freeze fruit sauces, prepare canned fruit and add fruit to savory entrees and sauces.
Urban gleaning has changed the way I see my city and the people I share it with. I am inspired by the generosity of the homeowners, the passion of the volunteers and the dedication of service organizations who share the fruit with those who need it most. Watching the sunset over my city from high atop an apple tree has changed my perspective – instead of focusing on the towers and condos I now see potential in our soil and branches full of beautiful fruit.
Urban gleaning organizations are cropping up everywhere. These initiatives compliment other food security strategies such as: community supported agriculture, good food boxes, community gardens, shared yard projects and community orchards. If none of these programs exist in your area then maybe you need to invest in a wagon and start scouting for fruit.
Raw Pear-Ginger Crepes
5 small pears
1 1/2 cup ground golden flax seed
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp ground ginger
Puree the pears in a food processor until they turn into a smooth sauce. In a bowl combine the pears with the other ingredients. Then scoop a heaping tbsp onto a teflex sheet and spread it out into a thin circle with the back of a spoon.
Repeat 12 times to use up all of the batter. Dehydrate the crepes for three hours at 110 degrees. Then flip the sheets and remove the teflex layer. Continue to dehydrate the crepes for an additional 2 hours. They should be pliable but firm.
Serve with fresh fruit, nut butters, chocolate sauce etc.
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