Guest post from our Vice President: Joshua Buck

Hello Readers,

As you may be aware Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton will be holding their AGM on March 29 at 1pm at the former McCauley School on 107a Ave. We are looking for several new board members. As the current Vice President of Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton I would like to take a moment to share with you reasons why joining our board may just be the perfect thing for you to do!

Let me start by saying that as a young professional who has only been living in Edmonton for two years, joining the OFRE board was a great way for me to meet people who wanted to have fun but at the same time make our home a better place to live. I have met some truly amazing people throughout the year at various events that OFRE has attended and held. Edmonton has a vibrant community of enthusiastic people who are working hard to bring food security and self-resilience to the forefront of local conversations!

OFRE attends and holds a number of events each year, such as cider pressings, workshops at the Edmonton Resilience Festival, demonstrations at the Fruit Growers Festival at the beautiful Devonian Botanical Gardens, and farm gleans collecting lots of tasty and fresh fruits and veggies. All of these events are a great way to spend an afternoon, get some fresh air and enjoy the company of friendly people.

Aside from meeting people and having fun, joining the board of Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton will give you a chance to hone your skills as an event planner, communicator, organizer, community planner, and more! Plus you will get to learn about tree and shrub maintenance and how to make the most of your green thumb in our Northern climate.

For me joining the Board of Directors with OFRE started as a way to meet people and give back, now it has grown into being a part of a community! Oh, and I have so much apple cider to drink year round, what a tasty bonus!

OFRE AGM is coming up! Join us on March 29th, 1-3pm

Operation Fruit Rescue had an amazing year in 2014!

We hope that you will join us as we continue our adventure in 2015.
Sign up to become a member today, and become a part of OFRE.  Join us at our AGM which is scheduled for March 29th, 2015 at 1:00pm – 3:00pm at the McCauley School.  Come taste a special brew of cider by one of our board members, and learn more about what we did, and our plans for 2015.

Some highlights and statistics from 2014

  • 76 fruit pick events
  • 96 fruit pick volunteers
  • 320 fruit growers
  • 5864 pounds of fruit rescued!
  • 2445 pounds of fruit donated to various organizations

In 2014 we made some major changes to our organization with theimplementation of the Harvest Management System to help us keep up
with the enormous number of requests from home owners. This allowed
the homeowners to initiate pick times for our volunteers to sign up
for.  This increased the number of picks exponentially from 2013. We
hope to make additional changes for the upcoming season to make it
even more user-friendly for both pickers and growers.

We also implemented one of the first urban micro-orchards in Canada to
help us educate homeowners and provide OFRE with a home.  This took a
lot of work and is something that OFRE is extremely proud of and it
could only have been done with the support of our volunteers,
donations from various organizations, and the tremendous support from
the City of Edmonton.

We had a hugely successful vegetable glean at Riverbend Gardens which
attracted more the 40+ volunteers to pick root veggies for share with
the Salvation Army to help provide fresh food for their daily hot meal
program in the inner city.  The day was warm and kids played in the
dirt, and community was formed from the ground up.

What does 2015 hold for OFRE?

As we come out of hibernation we are gearing up for 2015 and have some
amazing ideas for events that will build on our momentum from last
year and we need your help to make it happen!  To make our
organization resilient to and sustainable over the long term we are
seeking volunteers to help our board members implement their ideas.
We are also seeking additional board members to guide the organization
into the future.  We have 4 positions available! Come join us at our AGM and find the hidden fruit in our city!


  • Date: March 29th, 2015
  • Location: McCauley School 9538-107 Ave
  • Time: 1:00pm-3:00pm
  • Light snacks and beverages provided.

Stocking Up – a fall festival of food

Stocking up – A fall festival of food

Fall is always a special time of year for me.  Going back to when I was a small child and helping Mom, Dad, Gramma & Great-Gramma clean the garden and start preparing for winter, it was… precious. Time with loved ones. Gorgeous colours for the transition in nature.  Amazing food.

This year was a special one for me and my family. I took a full week off to pick and preserve fruit for the winter.  It worked really well. My wife and I just had our first child this spring, so it was a lot more challenging than picking & preserving in years past and it was also a lot more fulfilling.  But I’ll get to that later.

We got really lucky with the picks we signed up for. The first was a small acreage north of Edmonton, which listed needing 1 tree picked.  We got out there to find 3 eating apples. 2 crabs, and an Evans cherry all dripping with fruit. After speaking with the owner, we agreed to pick for two days, and pick as much as we could. The second day I’d already signed up for another apple pick, so that evening we got another full tree of eating apples and a handful of crabs.  All in all, there was nearly 500 lbs of apples & crabs, and almost 50 lbs of cherries.

One of the challenges I have with picking is deciding where to donate.  This year it was easy – the day after the pick we had an appointment near Whyte ave, so YESS got a nice surprise and a lot of fruit. It was neat because the chefs had just arrived and once I started bringing the food in, they immediately started planning what they would do with it. Very fun experience.

We had planned to juice a lot of the apples. I’ve been picking with OFRE for a few years now, so one of the friends in the organization has a T-frame jack press, that works really well.  I’d called him ahead of time, and we’d arranged to press it all in one go.

There was too much to do in an evening after he was done work, so we did it in two.  Mix of eating & crabs produces a very nice blended flavour.  If you ever have the chance, try to do some small batches of juice to see what different apples taste like. If you think all juice is the same… you haven’t been picking & preserving long enough.  =)

The following day was batch pasteurization day.  We have a lot of jars that have been handed down to us from family members who don’t use them anymore.  It’s very nice for us to have them all, and on a day like that day was… it was a necessity. 

100 L of apple juice, canned in 1 Day. Sweet (not sweetened, just very tasty as is.  Also – pun).

While I was busy with the juice, my wife and her Gramma were working on applesauce.  Remember, that new baby we had?  Well, we figured making our own applesauce would be a good plan.  So we had nearly 100lbs of that sauced too.  Much of it was frozen, as we were still running out of jars at this point (and a little sick of canning).  Applesauce is also great in baked goods – especially the chocolate chip walnut spice cookies I’m eating while writing this.  As an added bonus, my daughter really enjoys it now!  Huzzah!

This was a big part of the fulfilling part of the year.  Being with OFRE now for a few years, the whole family is involved.  It’s bringing us closer together.  We’re eating great food.  And we are spending time together in meaningful ways.

I hope my little one has great memories of this like I did, so that one day she can follow in my footsteps, like I do in my parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents.

By Jordan A. Wilson

Fruit season is coming to an end!

Wow, what a season it has been!

We can’t believe how many trees got picked, pounds of fruit were donated, and number of volunteers who joined OFRE in 2014. We look forward to releasing the numbers soon after the season officially closes.

If weather cooperates our last pick will be October 18th. Until then, we still have a few picks going on this weekend and into next week, so sign up if you want some lovely fall apples. They made the best cider and are the best for storage into the fall/winter.

Is OFRE still taking fruit grower registrations?  If you are a grower hoping to register your tree for us to come pick it, we are no longer taking new registrations for the 2014 season.

Happy thanksgiving and enjoy the lovely autumn weather we are having!

An introduction to cider making!

 IMG_1432As fall quickly approaches, heralded in by an early September snow fall, you may notice that the apple trees around the city are heavy with fruit. If you are familiar with OFRE’s mission and take part in it, you know there is more fruit available than you could possibly use. Even walking my dog around my neighbourhood in North Glenora I have seen at least a dozen trees still full.

While big juicy apples are perfect for eating or baking, many of the apples trees around Edmonton are crab apple trees. Crab apples are too sour to eat and too small to make pies with, but they are perfect for one thing, and that’s cider! Crisp tart cider, tossed it in the crock pot with some spices and you have one of my favourite winter drinks, mulled cider

If you ever thought making cider was hard, you’re wrong; it’s simple, fun and inexpensive.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a mix of different varieties of apples
  • an apple crusher
  • a press

The key to a good cider is the choice of apples. While any apple can make a good cider, a good mix of a variety is key. I prefer ciders heavy on the crap apples because I like a tart cider. I’ve made a cider with only sweeter apples and I found it flat and too sweet for my palate. Try making your own blends until you find what tastes best to you.

Next you’ll need a lot of apples, for every 15-20 kg of apples you can expect 10L of cider. If you consider that an average tree can have well over 100 kg, that’s not a lot of work.

To transform your apples into a delicious cider you’ll need an apple crusher and a press. You can either rent this equipment or make it yourself. There are several blogs that provide instructions on creating different DIY models. I prefer renting the equipment as I find you get more juice (and it’s a whole lot easier). While I’m sure there may be other places you can pick up the equipment, I usually head over Estate Brewing ( where owner Kevin Hogg has a few sets of crushers and barrel presses and will be happy to show you the ins and outs.

The actual crushing and pressing is pretty easy. The Cider Workshop ( is an excellent resource and can give you advice on how to press cider. Likewise there are numerous other blogs which give good advice.

Once you’re done pressing and before you call it a day, you will need to get rid of the pressed apples (called pumice) and store your cider. The pumice can be left out in clear garbage bags and it will be composted at the Edmonton Waste Management Facility. As for the cider, it will last a week in the fridge before it starts to ferment. If you want it keep it longer, you can simply freeze it or preserve it through canning. (

Cider pressing is easy and it gives you a healthy, locally sourced drink that you can enjoy throughout the winter.

Press Release – The Golden Shovel!

OFRE’s 5th year celebration – From modest beginnings to a strong future:  Micro-Orchard takes root in McCauley

Your cordially invited to the official planting of the Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton micro-orchard, September 13th, 2014, at the McCauley School grounds, 95th Street & 107A Avenue.

As part of the days festivities, Edmonton City Councillor, Scott McKeen, Megan Rogers from Forestry operations, Jane Molstad from community revitalization, and Mike Johnson, OFRE President will make announcements and take part in the golden shovel ceremony. The event will start at 9am with the planting of the first tree at 10am.

Other attending organizations include: Edmonton Bicycle Commuters (EBC), and Edmonton Permaculture Guild. There will be live music, it’s open to the public and people of all ages are welcome to attend. OFRE volunteers will be pressing cider with the pedal powered apple crusher, which is always fun to see in action!

This orchard is unique to Edmonton, the region, and Canada as it’s one of the first ever urban orchards on public land. It will be a place for Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton to teach, learn and grow. For Edmontonians, it will be a place, to develop a passion for local food, to harness long lost food preservation skills, and to contribute to a stronger, more food secure city.

The micro-Orchard will include plantings to showcase the types and varieties of fruit trees, shrubs, and bushes grown in the Edmonton Capital region. Fruit varieties to be planted include: apples, pears, cherries, saskatoons, raspberries, and more! 

No experience necessary, just bring your enthusiasm and a shovel. The event is open to the public and is FREE to attend!

Pick of the week – OFRE’s micro orchard!

Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE - pronounced “offer’) is celebrating its 5th year as an organization. From its humble beginnings in 2009, OFRE has become a widely respected organization within the city and throughout Canada. In celebration of 5 years of rescuing fruit OFRE is creating a micro Orchard in Edmonton!

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(Click here for full size image)

With grant funding from the City of Edmonton, OFRE’s proposal for transforming a section of the McCauley School grounds is reaching fruition. Since 2012, OFRE has been planning and organizing this ground-breaking project in Edmonton. The area specifically located on 107A Avenue between 95th and 96th Street is to be transformed into a micro Orchard - a fruit bearing oasis!

The micro Orchard will include plantings to showcase the types and varieties of fruit trees, shrubs, and bushes that can grow in the Edmonton Capital region. Fruit varieties to be planted include: apples, pears, cherries, Saskatoons, raspberries and more!

As a green addition to McCauley, the micro Orchard will be used by OFRE to host educational workshops. People will be able to learn how to press apple cider, and care for their fruit bearing trees and bushes. We intend to educating the citizens of Edmonton, through the installation of the micro Orchard, and will empower people with the skills needed to grow, harvest, and preserve locally grown fruit in their own backyards.

OFRE’s micro Orchard is scheduled to break ground September 6th, 2014, with the help of Edmonton Permaculture Guild. It will take several weeks to complete with countless volunteer hours.

WHEN? September 6th & 7th

  • Ground breaking,
  • Dig pathways and level
  • Removal of sod
  • Install mulch pathways

              September 13th

  • Plant trees & shrubs
  • Install ground cover
  • Build shed
  • Install 1000 litre totes on site
  • Press and make cider (go on an OFRE pick and bring your own apples!)

Please sign up (see links below) to be a part of this amazing event. Involvement is greatly encouraged, and will be immensely appreciated!

The 5th year anniversary of Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton is a wonderful time to find the fruit hidden in our city!

Pick of the week – Guest post from Jacquie Lycka of Parkallen Home Kitchen

What access to local fruit means to me:

Being a Fruit Hero!

I am honoured to be have been asked to write a guest blog post for OFRE’s pick of the week. This will be my fourth growing season volunteering for OFRE and I have loved every summer more than the last.



As a self proclaimed local food advocate, having access to local fruit in my neighbourhood means a lot to me. It means that I know exactly where it came from, who grew it, and I can be rest assured that the fruit that my family and I are eating did not travel thousands of miles to end up on our plates. Taking home a large amount of free fruit doesn’t hurt either ;).

My journey with OFRE has been a fun filled one. My very first pick was with OFRE founder Amy, where we picked a massively overgrown raspberry bush. In the end, our hands were stained, our legs were scratched, and our bodies were entirely bug bitten, but we were exhilarated. I made an amazing white chocolate raspberry ice cream with the berries from that pick, which is now one of my favourite recipes. White chocolate rasp

The following summer, I did my first Evans cherry pick. Those tart, plump berries were turned into a fantastic sour cherry liqueur. sour cherry

I was inspired to partner with OFRE for a school project, where we picked apples for the MacEwan Food bank. I had a blast working with my classmates, climbing trees, rescuing apples and feeding hungry students.

Last summer, my husband and I ventured into apple juicing and Pommeau making. They made fantastic Christmas gifts and a great sipping cocktail throughout the long, cold winter we had. Pommeau

Throughout my last four summers with OFRE, I learned more about fruit trees than I thought possible. With this knowledge, I now have the ability to care for my own fruit bearing trees and bushes in our yard and to turn the fruit into delicious recipes.

I can hardly wait for this season’s local fruit to blush and ripen for the picking. My Parkallen Home Kitchen is waiting in anticipation for the creations that will result.

Pick of The Week-Mid-summer rhubarb-strawberry soup


Rheum rhaponticum, Rheum x hybridum, Rheum rhubarbarum, Rheum x cultorum (culinary rhubarb; there are many other rhubarbs that aren’t used as a food) is a close relative of sorrel and belongs to the buckwheat family. Technically a vegetable, rhubarb is often thought of as a fruit. Already a staple in Scandinavian, British and Eastern European diets, it became a necessary plant for early Prairie settlers, providing the first blast of freshness and vitamin C of the year until the other garden crops were ready. So while  rhubarb is often thought of as an early spring edible, it produces and produces throughout the summer. So much so that gardeners who jealously watch over their patch in May and June are happy to let anyone who wants cut stalks at will. In other words, rhubarb in July in need of rescuing with a good recipe, because by now, the novelty has worn off. Yet there’s still plenty of it to go around.

Cold rhubarb-strawberry soup is one of my favourite uses for mid-summer rhubarb (it’s great with early spring rhubarb too) because it’s a refreshing cold soup that I associate with the heat of late July and early August. It also uses up the mounds of mint that will soon flower and turn bitter. This particular vanilla- and cinnamon-scented soup is from Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad (Artisan, 2003), and makes great use of the fact that rhubarb, strawberries and mint all appear around the same time in the garden. When I’m being fancy or trying to impress, I serve the soup in martini glasses, garnished with a sprig of fresh mint as an appetizer.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Soup

     1  pound (500 g) rhubarb, stalks trimmed and cut pieces
1/2  cup (125 mL) sugar
2 1/2  cups (675 mL) water
1  cup (250 mL) dry white wine
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
1 small cinnamon stick
12 to 16 strawberries, hulled and sliced
1  tablespoon (15 mL) chopped fresh mint
Sour cream for serving

In a stainless steel pot, combine the rhubarb, sugar, water, white wine, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. (Copper, aluminum, or iron pots will be discoloured by the acidity of the soup and may affect the flavour.) Bring the soup to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Remove the cinnamon and vanilla bean. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot with the back of a knife back. Discard the bean and the cinnamon stick.

Add half of the strawberries to the soup and set aside to cool. Pour the soup into deep bowls, garnish with the mint, the remaining strawberries and the sour cream (about 2 teaspoons /10 mL per bowl). Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 4.

Jennifer Cockrall-King (author of food and the city)


Pick of the Week – Pretty Flies, Bad Apples

My work life is in entomology (bug stuff). Specifically, integrated pest management.

My personal life aims for sustainable, healthy, local living. So, when I found one of my favourite local foods being ravaged by an insect pest, I was all over it!

The sprawling crabapple tree in my former backyard produced so many healthy, mid-size, tasty crabs. I ate them raw, made applesauce, baked them, and still had barely touched the tree.

“Boy, a lot of fruit must go to waste in Edmonton,” I thought (and said). My boss told me about OFRE, and I haven’t looked back! That was 2011. The first pick I attended as a volunteer, the apple trees had apple maggot. What looked like large, normal apples on the tree were actually slimy and decayed, with tunnels inside. At the time, the organizers seemed to feel this was an anomaly, not the norm. “What is this dastardly bug ruining local apples?” I had to know.

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I learned that Rhagoletis pomonella is relatively new to Edmonton.  It was first recorded here about 10 years ago. It evolved as a new species from hawthorne maggot flies only a few hundred years ago in North America, after the introduction of apple trees. Now it has spread all over the continent.

The flies lay eggs on apples. The maggots (baby flies) eat tunnels and grow inside the fruit and then drop out to pupate in the soil under the tree. Next summer, they emerge as flies.

“Hmm. Neat. Thank goodness it’s not very common,” I thought upon learning all this.

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The next summer, I eagerly waited again for my yummy crabapples to be ready. I prefer them greener and crunchy, so I picked them fairly early and processed them right away: canning them, making apple butter etc… But the ones I left longer started looking ominously dimply. They had apple maggot!! Now my relationship with this fly was personal!

More and more apples were coming up maggoty. I started wondering what could be done. On my own time, as well as in my work with the City of Edmonton, I’ve been doing some research and observing maggoty apples. These are a few of the things I’ve learned:

1) Apple Maggot Flies are Pretty! With a very distinctive black wing pattern and iridescent red/blue eyes, I find these guys pretty endearing (just me?). This is a struggle shared by many entomologists: Dislike the pest’s action/admire the pest!

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2) Maggots Don’t Wait Until the Apples Hit the Ground. In all the literature, it says the maggots go into the ground from apples that have fallen down. But I have definitely had maggots raining on me while sleeping under my apple tree. So if you want to reduce the flies for the following year, you can’t wait until the apples fall to dispose of them.

3) Getting Rid of Apple Maggot is Not Easy. The biggest challenge of getting rid of these flies is that even if you do everything right as a tree owner (pick all apples and send to landfill, put out sticky traps, cover the ground under the tree from June through July etc), if a neighbour (in a 1km radius) doesn’t do their part, their flies may still find your apples and re-infect your tree.

Orchard owners can just spray all of their trees, eliminating the pest. But spraying is not feasible for a homeowner as effective sprays are not available for private use. As well, timing is very important, and repeated spraying is needed. So one has to rely on the participation of all his neighbours to “cure” a tree.

4) You can Save Some of Your Apples. Some orchards and individuals place a nylon or plastic bag around each apple when they are small. The fruit grows inside the bag, untouched by flies, and therefore, maggot-free! This is not something I am willing to do. So I tried what I have named “Maggot Exclusion Sleeves”. Basically, I made socks for entire branches by glue-gunning white garden netting into tube shapes. So, I enclosed all the apples on several branches, and had 100% success at protecting the enclosed ones from apple maggot! Online, you can also get giant nets meant to cover the entire tree! More expensive, but hey, your apples are protected.

5) There are Natural Biocontrols in Edmonton. I reared a bunch of flies from apple maggots and found that from some of the pupae came parasitoid wasps! This is exciting, as it shows that there are insects here that are helping reduce fly numbers. One of the downsides of using the recommended yellow sticky traps is that the wasps feed on flowers as adults and so are also attracted and stick to them.

Can we get rid of apple maggot in Edmonton? Sheesh. I dunno. It’s daunting. But, it would save so many delicious, local apples if we could.

The more that people know about the value of their apples, and understand how apple maggot works, the better chance there is they will act to eliminate these pretty but pesky flies. So through OFRE and the City lab I hope to work on public outreach and education.

Do you have apple maggot?

You can direct any apple maggot questions to:

I would also like to rear as many maggots as possible, to get a better idea of how much parasitism is going on. If you have maggots in your apples and are willing to share them, please contact me at

Happy fruit season!

Sarah McPike

Credits: All photos from