Fresh Fruit for Rotten Cheapskates Like Me

By Maggie Wells on 15 September 2008 4 comments
Photo: Julian Wells

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:

Raw Applesauce

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.

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Guest's picture

Buying with the seasons is cheaper, tastier (nothing like the taste of ripe), and healthy.

You just can't beat that.


Guest's picture

Our house has 8 different fruit trees - peach, nectarine, apricot, cherry, orange, lemon, tangerine, and apple. When I see what the grocery store and farmer's market charges for fruit I am shocked. Recently we traded some of our apples for plums, and in the past we traded lemons for limes, and sweet cherries for sour cherries. We have quite a stockpile of recipes using both fresh and frozen fruit (I should learn canning, but it is one of those things that I keep putting off), and a lot of our citrus is juiced for smoothies or to use in cooking. Of course, my son takes all of the fruit that we have for granted, and constantly whines that he wants bananas. :)

Guest's picture

There are organizations like that will send volunteers to collect excess fruits and veggies from your garden and donate it to local charity. A portion of it is returned to you and the volunteers as well. It's a win-win-win situation. They also make preserves and have classes. If there isn't one such organization in your neighbourhood, consider starting one.

Guest's picture

It's per se, FYI.