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Not Far From the Tree

I wrote last summer about my experience picking apples with the community organisation, Not Far From the Tree.  That was a positive one for me but with some reflection I have to admit that it’s novelty had a lot to do with that judgment.  The apples we picked (and I preserved using a recipe for spiced apples) were, quite frankly, under-mature and despite my wishful thinking the sharp mallic acid taste and starchy texture didn’t improve in the Mason jar. I read in Jeffrey Steingarten’s Ripeness Is All that apples are well-suited to ripening after harvest as they convert starch to sugar so we must have been truly early in picking these.  I also now know how to tell if an apple is ripe: Cut it through its equator and if the seeds are brown it is ready to be harvested.

This really wasn’t NFFTT’s fault; I’m sure that the combination of scheduling a limited volunteer pool and home owners who declare that their tree absolutely must be picked immediately so that all the fruit doesn’t litter their yard means that mine wasn’t the only group picking under-ripe fruit. Complaining about free food seems ungracious but on the other hand isn’t that preferable to wasting apples that in the next-best scenario would have fallen and fed animals, birds, and the tree itself?

I resolved to be more selective, this year.  Luckily, my volunteer labour was accepted to help pick a plum tree  that was in particularly good shape.  I’m not the most agile person I know, decreasinly so the further I get from the ground, but luckily I have a great ability to clamp tightly onto a tree branch and ignore how high off the ground I am as I extend the telescopic picker we’re given in search of more plums.

Our group picked an impressively large haul of plums.  A third of the crop is donated to charity, a third goes to the homeowner, and the final third was split five ways between the volunteers.  My share came to over thirty good sized, red skinned, and delicious plums.  I used half of these to make an Italian-style plum cake and the other half will join the strawberries and cherries in my brandy-filled crock.

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