It used to drive me nuts. Driving by fruit trees that were loaded with rich, ripe fruit that was simply doing nothing more than going to waste. I’d think about how much I wish I could go up and ask to pick that fruit, but I didn’t have the nerve. Things changed one day when a friend of mine told me that she had asked the farmer behind her home if he would let her go gleaning in his tomato patch after he had picked enough to fill all of his orders. Not only did the farmer agree, he was happy to have someone who could use the not perfect enough to sell part of his crops.
Gleaning is the biblical practice of hand gathering crops after the harvest, or gathering crops nobody else may want. I think of it as a modern day sort of urban foraging. There are even gleaning organizations set up in partnership with growers to glean their fields and orchards and give their bounty to food banks.
I began my gleaning career nervously. What would people think if I asked for the produce they weren’t in need of. Instead of walking up to doors and knocking, I put a short blurb in our church newsletter. The very next day I had offers of apricots. So many apricots. Trees and trees full of apricots. Seems as though lots of people plant apricots that don’t really like eating apricots.
I always accept each time I’m offered the opportunity to glean from someone’s garden or fruit trees, even if it’s something that our family might not be fond of. I can always find another family who would love that very thing, and it keeps me fresh in people’s minds for the next time they’ve grown more than they can eat.
I take notice if the people who are opening their fruit trees for gleaning have a garden or not. I find it’s a nice touch to return with some of what I may have extra of to say thank you for what I’ve been offered. I’m big on win-win situations. This year a neighbor gave me a bonanza of plums. I returned her kindness with a few jars of jam that I made with those plums.
This year I’ve been offered the opportunity to glean peaches, pears, cherries and plums. Most of it has gone directly into my freezer for my son’s special blenderized diet.
Organic, local and free. Prepping on a budget. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Have you ever gleaned before? What tips do you have?
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