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.

 

OFRE

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

EPJ7_R_6

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.23.20 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.23.31 PM

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!

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.23.47 PM

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: healthyfruit@operationfruitrescue.org.

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 healthyfruit@operationfruitrescue.org.

Happy fruit season!

Sarah McPike

Credits: All photos from http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/cropprot/tfipm/applemaggot.htm

Pick of the week – Looking back

IMG_1439When I look back to 2009 when I was at a friends for a potluck event and the idea was suggested of starting a fruit rescue volunteer group, which eventually grew into OFRE, I feel grateful to have been part of it all since the beginning.

OFRE has led me to so many places, many of them I never foresaw in my future such as a fruit pick volunteer, fruit captain, executive director, president of OFRE board, representative for Slow Food Canada at Terra Madre, canning instructor with Metro education and City of Edmonton Arts, presenter at PKN13, and Avenue Magazine’s top 40 under 40! All of these and more I can credit to my involvement with Operation Fruit Rescue over the years. Sometimes when you say yes to something and jump in, you never know where it might take you, I guess!

Terra Madre 2012

Canning class

Canning class

Show What You Grow

Show What You Grow

In the beginning, I was excited at the prospects of getting access to locally grown raspberries and apples. I was living in an apartment at the time, so growing my own food was still beyond reach for me. I had no idea what kinds of fruit people would be calling to ask us to rescue such as plums, pears, and even apricots! The first year taking phone calls and answering emails for OFRE I thought for sure, some homeowners were pulling my leg when they would tell me they had plums and pears to share.

This is my 5th year being involved in OFRE and I still find incredible joy in climbing trees to get fresh fruit right from the tree, slashing down giant rhubarb bushes, telling new volunteers about OFRE and fruits they will find, and making delicious preserves to enjoy well after the season is over. Now, being a mother to a beautiful little girl, I can’t wait to take her on some summer fruit picks over the next couple of years to show her how to pick apples right off the tree and give her a taste of a berry or two!

Thank-you-Quotes-Wallpaper-3

 

 

 

Pick of the week – What do you mean by ‘rescue’ fruit?

In the last few weeks as I make my rounds in Edmonton I have been queried as to what it means to ‘rescue’ fruit. Rescue in this context isn’t the rescue of Jimmy because he’s fallen down the well and Lassie tells someone they need to bring a ladder! As miraculous a dog as Lassie was other than the use of a ladder there is very little similarity!

BFF

BFF

There is no danger or distress…not really…yet fruit is still rescued nontheless!

The true story

The true story

To the average inhabitant of Edmonton and area the individual awareness of fruit bearing trees and bushes is likely limited. You travel your routes to and from your regular destinations giving only passing attention to what may be visible in the front yards of the homes along the way. Those with these fruit bearing trees and bushes may have a different awareness: they’re a nuisance or they’re a fabulous homegrown resource!

Wherever your personal awareness of the abundance of fruit bearing trees and shrubs falls the fact is Edmonton has a fabulous growing season for many of the usual suspects: apples, rhubarb, crabapples, sour cherries, and saskatoons. If you know what to look for there are also nanking cherries, pin cherries, highbush cranberries, and seabuckthorn berries, for instance.

Highbush cranberry

Highbush cranberry

Late fall apples

Late fall apples

Mini yellow flesh crabapples

mini yellow flesh crabapples

Fruit trees look fabulous when in bloom, they can produce beautiful fruit, keeping the garden colour scheme going into fall. Once fall arrives the fruit begins to fall and its time to clean up the mess. Where the rescue of fruit comes into the mix is in the harvest (and distribution): rescue the fruit before it goes to waste!

My favourite example of fruit going to waste…an experience I will likely never forget was on a pick last year. One of the most abundant apple trees in this backyard had no edible fruit left on it! None! All of the apples had in fact begun fermenting on the tree!?! It was an intoxicating and nauseating blend. Made infinitely more surreal in smelling apple cider vinegar coming from a tree?? Mind boggling! Sarah and I either wanted some fresh hot fries or to run away with our noses plugged.

Seabuckthorn

Seabuckthorn

In attempting to mitigate the natural cycle of unharvested fruit going to the compost bin, rescuing fruit happens! It really does. By individuals who are willing to lend their hands, ladders, buckets and bags, etc. all to harvest as much unused fruit as possible. It is a rewarding hands-on experience! A great family outing and a learning experience for children who may never experience a farm.

The fruit rescued by Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, fruit pick volunteers give a significant portion from each harvest directly to any one of the many local organizations who feed those in need. How awesome is that?!? Fruit that has a great chance of going to waste gets delivered into the hands and mouths of those in need.

Consider this: how much more enjoyable would eating fruit grown in your collective backyard be…and an easement on your grocery budget…if you helped rescue fruit too?? I can tell you…its delicious…absolutely delicious!

Cheers!

Kim Schaeble

 

Pick of the Week – A is for Apple

A is for apple…

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 8.04.22 AM

Apple blossom time is just finishing. They hold the promise of upcoming apple picks!

Did you know that Edmonton is a zone 3A gardening zone with an average of 140 frost free days a year between May long weekend and September labour day weekend? It’s a great place to garden. I love to garden, but have trouble keeping my digging dogs out of my flower beds!

I’m involved in a local fruit rescue non-profit society called: Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, also known as OFRE. Since joining their organization, I’ve learned that yes, it’s true, apples, pears, cherries, rhubarb, plums, and even apricots grow here!

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 7.56.16 AM

Apple play a major part of my summer activities, not only the lovely blossoms in the spring that fill my backyard, but harvesting and preserving apples collected on fruit picks!

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 7.56.43 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 7.56.56 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 7.57.32 AM

OFRE helps Edmontonians find the fruit hidden in our city. This is the second year in a row that I am a board member, and I am finding it very rewarding. OFRE connects fruit pick volunteers with homeowners interested in sharing their fruit. When the fruit is harvested at a pick, it is shared with the homeowner, volunteers, and a charitable organization such as the Salvation Army or the Edmonton Food Bank.

We also organize cider pressings, canning, and preserving parties during the fall season for our members to help them eat locally all year round!

Seriously think about becoming a member of our society. Go to our “become a member” page for more information. A great season awaits!

 By Bonnie Patterson-Payne

 

Pick of the week – June 16th

We are starting a new feature on our blog called Pick of the week that will feature stories of our pickers, bloggers, and other local food enthusiasts telling us stories about local fruit. First up is Mike’s story about picking pears!

———

Since I caught the bug of picking fruit a few year back, I look at the city of Edmonton differently.  I have my fruit goggles on, and everywhere I look I see fruit trees and the possibilities!  This city is filled with so many fruit trees and hundreds of varieties.

While walking my dog one evening three years ago, my fruit senses came alive as I was walking down a back alley only four blocks from my house.  I saw two amazing pear trees, and there were a few branches that drooped over the fence into the back alley.  I picked a couple of them to have a taste.  At that time I didn’t think Edmonton could grow great pears.  But I was glad to be wrong this once. They were not woody, but were sweet, dripping with juice, and one of the best pears I have ever tasted.  I kept going back for the last 2 years, and each year I saw the pears fall on the ground, and were wasted.  Last year I decided that enough was enough and I would contact the owner to see if they wanted help harvesting their fruit.  They were friendly and were excited about the possibilities of someone picking the pears and taking them away.  I organized an OFRE pick and immediately had two other people sign up.

DSCF4236We picked on a weeknight and since pears ripen in early fall, the darkness fell upon us quickly.  We were out there in the dusk climbing the tree trying to get all the fruit off the trees.  We ended up picking three rubbermaid bins full, and felt like kids again, climbing a tree!  The home owner even asked if we wanted a spot light set up so we could see all the pears that we missed.  The pickers that joined me were going to be making pear cider with their share, as they had just taken a cider making course with Shovel & Fork.   I was just going to eat all mine, and take a few over to my neighbour as he makes an amazing Pear and Parmesan pizza.  I asked the home owner if she wanted some of her amazing fruit.  Her response, which still sticks with me today, was “You know what, that’s okay,  you take them.  If I want pears I will go to the farmers market and pick some up”.

I personally think that her pears were tastier then any pears at the farmers market, they were just a little bit smaller.  It’s funny how our perceptions of food change when we are surrounded by it.  Maybe in this case the fruit is better on the other side of the fence… no matter which side of the fence you sit on.

 By Mike Johnson

Things to do with Rhubarb!

RhubarbSpring was off to a good start then that long rainstorm sort of delayed things our gardens, but with all that moisture plants will be getting growing now that it’s warming up a bit.

Rhubarb is the first fruit ready in Edmonton usually, so here are some things to do with rhubarb.

How to pick it:

  • Cut the stalk off with a knife close to the base. The larger stalks will be the toughest, so will need longer cooking and might not be as flavourful as medium to smaller stalks.
  • Trim the leafs off, they are toxic to eat.
  • Next, you can either peel the outer husk off or leave it.
  • Cut into chunks for recipes and storing some away in the freezer for the cooler months of the year.

A recipe to inspire you:

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.56.24 AM

Honey Rhubarb Cobbler (Canadian Living) . Doesn’t it look delicious?

 

 

Community event: OFRE talk on how to reduce apple maggot, May 31, Fulton Place

OFRE will be at a community event!

Apple maggot is a growing nuisance for apple tree owners in Edmonton. Sarah McPike, OFRE board member and entomologist, will be sharing information and tips for controlling apple maggot at the following event!

FULTON PLACE GARDENER’S SWAP MEET AND SALE
When: Saturday, May 31, 2014
Time: 9 a.m. –noonphoto-apple maggot fly
Where: 6115 Fulton Road

For further info about this event: www.fultonplace.org/activities-events

If you would like Sarah to attend your community event to do a 15 minute presentation about apple maggot, email:  applemaggotsquad@operationfruitrescue.org and provide details of what you’re looking for.

 

Introducting 2014 OFRE Board of Directors

As of April 7, 2014, OFRE is pleased to announce the welcome of five (5) new individuals to the Board of Directors:

  • Joshua Buck
  • Megan Ciurysek
  • Alex Mather
  • Geoff Salomons
  • Kim Schaeble

At the meeting of the Board, a restructuring of the individuals holding positions with in the Executive took place. Stepping down effective immediately Amy Beaith-Johnson as President, Jordan Wilson as Vice President, Mike Johnson as Treasurer, and Melisa Zapisocky as Secretary, as well as Board Members Janet Hazen and David Kahane. Of the seven (7) returning Board Members two (2) were elected to the Executive.

The Executive positions were filled as follows:

  • President – Mike Johnson
  • Vice-President – Joshua Buck
  • Treasurer – Gillian Turney
  • Secretary – Geoff Salomons

Returning Board Members: Amy Beaith-Johnson, Sarah McPike, Bonnie Patterson, Amy Wilson, and Jordan Wilson

We hope you will join us in welcoming OFRE’s 2014 Board of Directors! With great enthusiasm for the vision of OFRE, and fresh new skill sets brought on board, we expect a banner year in the ongoing rescue of Edmonton’s home grown fruit.