Tag Archives: 2014

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 – 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: 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 Prevention and Management of Apple Maggot in Commercial Apple Orchards in British Columbia

Pick of the week – Looking back

When 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

Volunteers teach canning

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!





Things to do with Rhubarb!


Spring 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:

Rhubarb Cobbler

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



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.