Fresh Fruit for Rotten Cheapskates Like Me
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Cheapskates
It’s almost harvest time. The grapevine on the side of our yard is so huge that I can no longer see the neighbors and its wound its way into the pine tree above it. The Asian pears and apples have only a week more before we can begin harvesting. Want to know the best way to keep your fresh fruit and vegetable budget within your means? Eat with the season and stay on good terms with your neighbors.
I don’t have a green thumb, per say, but I was smart enough to buy a house with two 65 year old grapevines and about ten fruit trees. The neighbors tell me the family that lived here canned fruit all fall so that what grows in our yard could last the whole year. I don’t have that kind of stamina and I’m a raw food person, so that isn’t quite do-able for me. But what is do-able is forgoing baskets of expensive fruits in the market and sticking for three months with what I have plenty of: pears, apples, and grapes. By consuming what’s here, I cut down on the grocery bill. By looking around and seeing what my neighbors are growing, I can yield a little variety.
I’m trading pears for late summer squashes, which don’t seem to grow in my yard, as well as late summer lettuces. I love going around the town and being able to negotiate based on my trees. I’m trading apples for raw food crackers that would cost me an arm and a leg if I were to purchase them out right from the woman in town that makes them.
But what to do if you have no fruit growing on your property? Ask absentee property owners if you can go pick their fruit.
Honestly. In our community we have quite a few residences that are ‘second homes’ for people who come up in the summer to fish but clear out in the fall and winter. Perfect. If a tree is left, say at my neighbors with all sorts of fruit clinging to the branches and beneath the tree, what happens is our neighborhood becomes an outdoor dining facility for local deer, raccoons and bear cubs. I’ve seen it happen. And no one wants that or the mountain lions that such fauna eventually attract. You are doing your absentee neighbors a favor and your neighborhood a favor by asking for food.
Some businesses also have fruit trees and no time to pick and some residents –particularly elderly residents might have trees they can no longer tend to. Ask! Ask! I collected rhubarb last spring and in exchange baked a few extra pies to return the favor. Some fruits go out of fashion. Do you have a neighbor from the Midwest with an avocado tree? A young 20 something couple with a fig tree? Odds and tastes are that they aren’t enjoying what these trees are providing. Just ask. Be bold. Break that unspoken American barrier of not talking to your neighbors, unless suing them. Hey, you gonna use all those apples? That’s all you have to say. They’ll be so shocked that you aren’t quarrelling over the easement that I bet they’ll say go for it.
Admittedly, eating the same three fruits for three months might get on most people’s nerves but there is at least anecdotal evidence that eating with the season is better for your health. And somehow eating with the seasons gives one a better appreciation that the seasons exist. This is especially true for those of us that live in unreal places such as deserts and Los Angeles.
And if you have an apple tree in your back yard and are stuck for quick healthy recipes, consider my raw applesauce recipe:
In a food processor, mix cut up apples with the skins still on, 4 or 5 medjool dates, a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of blue agave syrup, and cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Serve immediately or freeze until needed.
Enjoy the fruits of the season.