Category Archives: Pickings

Any posts related to picking fruit in the city.

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.


We 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

Building community through food: MacEwan Apple Project

As the Director of OFRE, I often get more requests for interesting partnership projects than we can handle in a season and it’s hard at times to say no. But, that is sometimes the case when you are working a volunteer run organization. One project that came by our desk this year was a partnership with MacEwan business students to donate apples to their campus foodbank. One of the group leaders of this project is Jacquie Lycka who joined OFRE this year as a Neighborhood Fruit Captain, approached us about the idea. When we heard what they wanted to do, we couldn’t help but say yes!  She has been a instrumental volunteer with OFRE and I knew with her energy and joy for apples, this project would get off the ground and be a success.

Here is a great short video the students put together on their apple project. Please watch and show your support for this great cause to increase healthy food donations to foodbanks on campuses. It’s inspiring, fun, and may cause you to think outside the kraft dinner box! Enjoy!



It’s so great when we do get an opportunity like this to partner with other organizations and help build a stronger food community in Edmonton. Thanks Jacquie and congratulations on your project!!

Wondering what to do with all your cherry pits?

pitting cherries

An OFRE volunteer started a discussion on our Facebook group page on what to do with evan’s cherry pits. It turns out they are great to use for a DIY heating pad, bed warmer, or sore muscle cloth bag!

Here is a link to an old but very helpful article on how to make a cherry pit bed warmer posted in Mother Earth News, which is also a great resource for people wanting to learn about fruit harvesting, homesteading, DIY project ideas, sustainable farming, urban gardening, etc. check it out!

OFRE volunteers go gleaning at a saskatoon u-pick farm

As word gets around about OFRE and our picking fruit capabilities we are getting requests from farms to help out with the harvest this year. The excellent weather we have had this year of warmth and moist conditions has been ideal for the berry crops including saskatoons!

In early August, OFRE was invited to help glean a bumper crop of saskatoons on a u-pick outside the city near Wawbemin.  It’s further than we have ventured before, but it was fun. We tend to try to stay in the city as much as possible as there is an abundant amount of fruit grown in Edmonton, but this was worth the trip. Check out the amount of berries picked by everyone! As per usual, all the fruits of the harvest are split into 4 shares with an equal share going to: the homeowner, a charity, OFRE, and a quarter is divided up among the pickers. I definitely have a freezer full now and will be enjoying my portion on pancakes or in muffins this fall. In this case, the homeowner who runs the u-pick farm was very grateful we could come out the pick the berries. She was able to take her portion to her stand at the farmer’s market to sell to customers, which directly benefits her business and gives people access to local fruit. A win-win in my mind.

Thanks everyone who came out and helped pick the patch. OFre volunteers were invited on 2 consecutive nights which meant that we could have lots of pickers and spread the bounty around.

From the OFRE portion of the fruit, I made a Spiced Saskatoon Jam. Here is the photo, I’m crushing the berries with a potato masher to help release the juice. It is a saucy sweet jam with a hint of cinnamon, touch of all-spice, and the brightness of lemon zest. very nice on toast, or drizzled on ice cream or a decadent chocolate cake.  To see the final product, you will have to drop by the 124th Grand Market, every Thursday from 5pm-9pm.

OFRE volunteers help glean a strawberry u-pick farm

strawberry u-pick farm

On a hot, sunny afternoon at the end of July, OFRE volunteers went out to a strawberry u-pick farm North of Edmonton towards Gibbons to glean the patch at the end of the season. Not only did we get to pick fresh strawberries, but they had a small patch of raspberries we picked too. People of all ages came out to partake in the fun.

Afterwards, a couple volunteers gathered together to make 2 OFRE jams from the OFRE portion of the rescued fruit. The sticky looking spoons you see in the bottom corner of the photo are from doing the spoon sheet test. To test if a jam is done, you can take a cold spoon and dip it into the jam mixture and let it drip off, then set it aside in the freezer for 1 minute. If it has jelled, your jam is ready to be poured into jars!

making jam

Here are the jam names and recipes that the volunteers came up with for this jammin’ afternoon.

  • Sublime Mixed Field Berry Jam (lime zest/juice, raspberries, strawberries). So delicious! (pictured in the photo)
  • Berry & Barb’s Jam (Strawberries & Rhubarb. Need I saw more?)


Thanks everyone who came out for a day on farm and for helping making Jam! The OFRE jam’s are available weekly at the 124th Grand Market, which runs Thursday evenings from 5-9pm.