Thanks for a great 2015 season!

We are closing fruit registration and rescue for this year. Stay tuned for a report on how much fruit we rescued this summer.

Thanks to the great volunteers and all generous homeowners who shared their bounty. OFRE would not happen with out you!saskatoons

Once again, the demand for fruit to be picked far exceeded our volunteer capacity. If you or someone you know has some time to give and a passion for local food, encourage them to join OFRE and become a fruit pick volunteer.

We are looking forward to more fruit rescue next year. Thank you all.

Message from the President

Hello, OFRE volunteers, growers, and members of the community
It’s unfortunate that I must issue this statement to inform you that the OFRE cider shack at the McCauley School and the site of the OFRE orchard was broken into on the night of Saturday 13th, 2015.  Critical components for our pedal-powered apples crusher were stolen from the shack, which makes our one-of-a-kind pedal-powered apple crusher unusable.  These items include the stainless steel hopper, and two 20″ bike rims for the seat.
We are upset that someone would break into our shed and steal customized equipment that has no other purpose than to crush apples.  We have used the crusher to bring joy to families, OFRE members, growers and volunteers by crushing thousands of pound of apples over the past 3 years.  OFRE will continue to put on events, with slightly modified equipment to ensure that we continue to educate Edmontonians on the value of locally grown fruit, what type of fruit can grow in the city, and what you can do with that fruit.
We have reported the incident to the police, and a police report has been filled out.  One of our volunteers also contacted the Edmonton Journal on behalf of OFRE to report the incident, and a story was publishedon Sunday night. You can find the article here:
If you or anyone you know has any information about this, please inform the police, as we would really like our custom equipment back, especially since this is our busy time of year and have events planned for the next two weekends which were supposed to showcase the pedal-powered apple crusher (pictured here).IMG_3186
We will also be starting a fundraising effort to rebuild the critical components to the pedal-powered apple crusher, and hope to raise funds.  Please stay tuned.
Mike Johnson
OFRE president

OFRE micro-orchard planting party! May 31st, 1-4pm

OFRE officially invites you to our spring planting and orchard clean-up.  May 31st from 1-4pm.  
Last year OFRE undertook the ambitious task of planting one of the first urban orchards on public property in Canada!
OFRE volunteers plant trees in the orchard behind McCauley School on Saturday Sept. 13, 2014. Photo by OFRE

OFRE volunteers plant trees in the orchard behind McCauley School on Saturday Sept. 13, 2014. Photo by OFRE

It took a lot of effort, and we are thrilled to see the fruits of our labour this year. There are buds on several of the trees, and some even have flowers.  As many of you know the FIFA world cup of soccer is coming to Edmonton this summer, and will be taking place at Commonwealth stadium, which is just down the street from the orchard.  So this spring planting and clean up is vital to show the city and people from all over the world what citizens of Edmonton are capable of achieving when we get together and share in a vision of making our city a healthier, more fruitful place to live!

Light refreshments and snacks will be provided.
List of things to be done. This is an permaculture designed orchard. If you are new to any of these tasks, that’s ok. We are a educational organization and happy to teach and learn together! 
  • Move the remaining compost to desired locations around the orchard.
  • Spread straw around the edgings
  • planting the cover crop to fix nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil, increasing soil fertility
  • Relocate 5 trees
  • Plant additional fruit trees and shrubs
  • (if material is provided in time (clad the shed/cider shack with corrugated metal)
What to bring:
  • Dress for the weather – it’s a rain or shine event, unless it’s really awfully stormy. Clothes you can get dirty in, and approriate footwear
  • Bring your own reusable water vessel
  • Work gloves
  • Tools if you have them – shovels, pitch forks, wheelbarrow

Sign up!

Fruit Registration will be available soon!

Thanks to excited growers who have been keen to register your trees with us!

We appreciate your enthusiasm and will have our forms available shortly. Please check back at the end of the month of May to sign up your fruit!

Our picking season get starts in June with Rhubarb and is in full swing by August with berries, cherries, and apples galore, winding up in mid October weather permitting with apples, pears, and crabapples.


OFRE President’s Message 2015

My wife talks a lot about the journey of life, enjoying the path, and focusing less on the destination.  The path can lead to something new and unexpected if you don’t purely focus on the destination, it can enrich the destination with experiences along the way.  This is something I have been struggling to learn over the years, because without a destination or goal, then there is no logic to a path and you can wandering aimlessly.  I do however believe that the joy of cooking is about the process not just the end product, even though the end goal is usually a great meal.  Discovering the flavours, textures, and their combinations  through experimentation create experiences that enrich the soul, while if we all just follow a recipe we can miss the extraordinary.  A meal I think is always better if there is a story attached.  With the explosion of Edmonton restaurants offering ‘farm to table’ dinners, it’s getting easier to know where ingredients come from and that local doesn’t just taste better because of the freshness, but because of the story.  It allows people to have an experience beyond taste and connect directly with the food.

A question I ask a lot of people now is: do you know where your food comes from?  For the past 5 years I have learned more about where my food has come from and the problems with the industrial agricultural system.  One of the things I have learned is that Apples are the top of the dirty dozen list, which means that there is more pesticides sprayed on apples than any other food.  This makes it even more important that if you are going to be buying organic, the first one that should be purchased is apples.  However, having saying that, why should you have to purchase apples where there is such an abundance right here in the city.  Some of the best tasting apples grown right here.  It may not be a Fuji, a Pink Lady, or a Gala, but have you ever had a Goodland?  I have been picking apples in Edmonton for 5 years and each year I am impressed with the quality…. but I may be biased because picking fruit gives me a different appreciation of the fruit.  I savor the tart apples, the dolgo crab, and cherish the eating apples.  This is not about going on a trip to the grocery store, this is about the adventure and the journey of picking the fruit right off the tree!  I think it tastes better.

It turns out that tart apples and crab apples are essential to making the perfect cider blend. Four years ago I created what I believe was the perfect cider blend.  A combination of sweet, to tart apples.  It was complex with distinct notes, and not muddled with too many varieties.  I may never be able to recreate that exact flavour combination, but each year I try, but am not worried if I ever recreate it, because it’s not all about the taste, it’s the process that I take each year to create the cider. Every year it tastes unique and is memorable to me as that year’s blend.

Through OFRE, I have found amazing friends, and learned the power of giving, and that sometimes the journey is better than the destination.  This year I hope that you will all slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labour this year.  Come and join OFRE, come for the journey, stay for the cider.

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.

IMG_0696 IMG_0601

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.