Foraging isn't just for country dwellers, there are ways for urbanites to get stuck in too, says Sally-Jayne Wright.
If you don't have a garden and can't get an allotment, you can still experience the pleasure of picking Autumn's glut of apples and pears. And it's free. Unlike foragers who gather free food from the wild, urban harvesters pick fruit on private land. Each year, in cities, hundreds of fruit trees in private gardens and public spaces go unpicked because the owner can't do it or nobody bothers.
Abundance is a project to harvest the seasonal glut of local fruit. With the tree owner or council's permission, volunteers pick fruit, give an agreed amount to the owner, then share out the rest. They also make jams, jellies, chutneys and juices and sell surplus fruit to restaurants and shops on a non-profit basis. Money raised goes back into the project or to local charities.
Why do it?
- Reduce food waste
- Get a taste of country life even if you live in a high-rise flat
- Be more aware of the seasons and where your food comes from
- Taste fruits you usually can't buy at the supermarket such as Worcester Pearmains and Keswick Codlings and increase your food knowledge
- Enjoy unsprayed fruit at its seasonal best, full of flavour and nutrition
- Help elderly gardeners physically unable to pick fruit themselves
- Show your kids where food comes from
- Have a cheap, fun day out in leafy surroundings
- Get inspired. I turned my spoils into Summer pudding, Apple cake, Tarte tatin, compote and Apple flapjack crumble.
- It's free!
How to get involved
There are Abundance projects in Chiswick, Haringey, Brixton, Hackney, Sheffield and Manchester. The organiser sends you an email about two days before a pick. You don't get much notice because it depends when the fruit ripens and which day suits the owners.
What to bring
Sensible shoes, old clothes, a hat, plastic washing-up basins, boxes and large, strong shopping bags.
What you'll be picking
The 2011 season is six weeks earlier than usual because of the warm spring. In September, expect to be picking apples, pears, quinces and grapes.