Urban Foraging

August 6, 2012

So first, we owe you an apology. We have been pretty absent this summer. I think it’s because summer is when we go and do so much fun stuff it’s hard to slow down enough to keep up here. However, with summer starting to wane, we are doing better about taking pictures for posts, and we have a *little* bit of a head start on several things, so that we don’t catch up on posts before we are out of fodder.

So! Onward and upward!

This weekend Katie and I took our first dabble in to what I’m calling ‘urban foraging.’ Close your eyes and imagine this:

Actually open your eyes or you can’t read.

*ahem*

Denver, like many other places, is in full bloom all spring as all the fruit trees flower. It’s stunning and it smells lovely. The blossoms eventually drop, the trees leaf out and viola! you have summer. Fast-forward three months and the leaves are *just* starting to get hints of yellow…..and there are effing berries all over your car, the street, the sidewalk, the list goes on.

As annoying as that is, we had the aha! that this is all FRUIT. Fruit you can harvest and use. Fruit that is free.

Let me caveat with this: We did not and do not condone taking any produce from someone’s yard without explicit consent to do so. That said, we have seen a large number of trees with fruit in the medians of streets and in some parks.

So how do you collect all this fruit? Well, basically you can sort the stuff that hits the ground, or you can climb the tree. The first trees we tackled had yellow fruit that we were really excited to think were apricots. Upon closer inspection, however, we discovered that they were actually tiny yellow pears! We had thrown a huge bag of bags* in the car and took it with us across the street. Katie sorted through the pears on the ground, I picked those I could reach on the tree.

Now, I will admit it is slightly awkward to be standing basically in the middle of the highway. But whatever, we were pretty excited.

We took two bags (maybe eight pounds?) of pears back to the car and headed down the sidewalk about 50 feet. Then we spotted the apples. There were apples everywhere. Katie started again with the ground fruit, and I with the tree fruit, when it very quickly became obvious that to pick fruit that was sizeable, I’d have to climb the tree. We spent the next hour getting me in to the tree (about ten feet up), shaking the branches enthusiastically (while Katie stood way out of the way), and then collecting the apples.** I couldn’t believe how hard it was – climbing was easier when I was a kid, but still it was fun. We wound up with four bags of apples that totaled about a bushel. The apples themselves are green with a bit of rosy pink on them, and they tasted somewhere between a Granny Smith and a Gala apple. Our grand plan is to make applesauce with them.

Finally, we also found some berries but we didn’t know what they were. We took them home for identification purposes but PLEASE do not eat any fruit or berry you are not familiar with.

All in all it was a pretty good haul – we are estimating about 40 pounds of fruit, collected in about two hours. The potential is huge if we do this even one day a weekend for the next few weeks.

So back to this idea of urban foraging. I was thinking about it on our way home and I realized that living in the city, we are no longer able to see the trees through the forest. Urban life encourages such a disconnect from what is around us that we can’t even see the resources available. How many people can be fed by produce that is available in public spaces? I’m not sure what I want to do with this thought yet, but it’s certainly something I want to spend some time with.

 

 

* That’s for you Father Burb!

** We do not advocate climbing trees as it can be dangerous. Please be careful.

Fruit of Our Labor

March 27, 2012

To continue with our theme of making our own food, Katie and I decided to tackle something I adore – fruit rollups. It never occurred to me how they were made, but it turns out they are surprisingly simple. We have made apple fruit rolls as well as today’s recipe – pear strawberry rolls.

You start with fruit. A lot of fruit. Like, eight pounds of fruit. We divided this amount between pears and strawberries. Start by chunking everything up in to smaller pieces so that you can cook it down somewhat.

We cooked these down in a large pot, along with a half a cup of pineapple juice and a bit of honey. We tossed the pears in first because they took longer to cook, then added the strawberries. We let it all boil until the pears began to soften – maybe a half hour or so.

While the fruit is cooking down, we set up our food mill. In this case, we have an attachment for our Kitchen-aid.

The main attachment sets in to the front of the kitchen-aid. This is where the food will be pushed in to the mill.

The corkscrew is placed in to the center, and when on, will turn and move the food down the chamber and through the screen.

The screen is the strainer that is placed over the screw. The screw will push food down to the end, and push food out through the strainer.

Finally there is a basket placed around the entire strainer. This allows the strained food to be pushed out and fall to the right, while the solids (fruit skin, stems, etc) are pushed out the front. Make sure you have a container to catch both!

As you can see, the fruit was placed in to the top of the miller. We have a tool to push down the fruit to make sure it makes it gets all the way to the screw.

As you can see, the fruit that is strained is falling down the chamber to the right, in to the white bowl. The glass bowl is catching the fruit skin and solids that we don’t want in our strained fruit.

Once you have your strained mixture, spread it out in layers. We used a dehydrator and it made about four trays worth of puree. We set it up to go overnight, and about nine hours later we had fruit leather. You can also do this in the oven on parchment, baked on a lower temperature until dry. You want the fruit to maintain a little springiness, but not be sticky or wet feeling. Once you have your fruit rolls dried, you can tear them up in to pieces and enjoy!