Ahhhh. Autumn is in the air. In some neighbourhoods, that may include the smell of fermenting fruit on sidewalks and alleyways that has fallen from disused (or underused) fruit trees. Within a block of my own home in the sud-ouest burrough, I have plums next door (and a few houses down), raspberries across the alley, and no fewer than three houses with backyard pear trees; plus my 5-minute walk to the metro takes me past two well-producing apple trees, of which one appears to be on city property.
Believe it or not, fruit trees are not strangers in Montreal. Sources tell me that many neighbourhoods were planned with a fruit tree–usually apple, pear or plum–in the back yard. While the fruit from these trees would probably have been harvested in the past, many modern city dwellers simply don’t have the time to pick the fruit. Plus there is the question of what to do with all those apples, pears and plums once they are harvested? Baking and canning takes time too.
Last fall I was delighted to discover several grass-roots initiatives that harvest urban fruit and redistribute them into communities. It’s called fruit gleaning and the formula is pretty similar between groups in different cities:
- Fruit tree owners register their fruit trees.
- A harvest day with volunteers is organized at a location. Only fruit on the tree is collected. Fruit on the ground is left or composted.
- The fruit tree owner keeps a portion of the harvest; the volunteers keep a portion of the harvest; and a portion of the harvest goes to food banks or community food initiatives.
- Some of the fruit may be used in canning workshops or collective kitchens.
Not only are these fruit harvesting projects a great initiative to use food that is freely available in our cities, they also bring people together and give back to the community.
Here are the Canadian fruit gleaning projects I’ve found. We literally have them from coast to coast! The largest seems to be in Toronto where they picked 19,695 pounds of fruit in 2010 and also tap trees for maple syrup. Vancouver has one of the oldest projects. If you’re in one of the cities and have fruit growing on your property, or otherwise want to get involved, contact them!
- St-John’s, NF: St-John’s Fruit Tree Project.
- Toronto: Not Far From the Tree.
- Mississauga, ON: Mississauga Fruit Tree.
- Hamilton, ON: The Hamilton Fruit Tree Project.
- Guelph, ON: Appleseed Collective.
- Winnipeg, MB: Fruit Share Manitoba.
- Calgary, AB: The Calgary Urban Harvest Project.
- Edmonton, AB: Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton.
- Nelson, BC: Earth Matters Fruit Tree Project
- Richmond, BC: The Richmond Fruit Tree Project and Richmond Food Security Society.
- Vancouver, BC: The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project.
- Victoria, BC: Lifecycles Fruit Tree Project.
Unfortunately, Montreal doesn’t currently have a project; but that might change. The NDG Food Depot is looking at starting a program next year. From what I understand, they’ve already been talking to the folks at Not Far From the Tree (NFFTT) in Toronto. If you’re interested in getting involved contact them or Marissa, who is helping plant the seeds for the project. In the meantime, if you have fruit that you don’t know what to do with, the NDG food depot will gladly accept the harvested fruit from your tree, bush or vine. (Or your neighbour’s, with permission of course.)
If you need help harvesting the fruit, you can contact Marissa who is planning two harvest dates for The Depot on Friday September 16th and Sunday September 25th. Volunteers are also needed the help with the picking! What better way to spend an afternoon than climbing in trees?
If you don’t have an urban fruit gleaning project in your town, why not start one? The folks at Earth Matters have a free downloadable 32-page guide to help take you get started!
If you know of a fruit gleaners in your area, let us know! I’ll update the list.
UPDATE: I’ve just been pointed to the following project in Montreal! It’s in it’s infancy. It seems like great minds think alike: Les Jardins Suspendus – Montreal’s Urban Fruit Harvest.