Urban Gleaning And The Dehydration Project

The hubby started doing a few odd jobs for a longtime client that owns several apartment buildings in the city. The city is about a half hour away and it’s easy work for a reasonable wage. Couldn’t get any better. Or so I thought.

The hubby’s client has him working in the center of downtown on one of the gazillion alleyways that run east to west down each block. He was coming home a little bit later than usual which was no big deal, but I noticed that each day became a bit later and later, but I still didn’t think anything of it until I noticed his pockets… filled… not with tools or personal items, but something else that was really odd in shape. Round maybe? Yep, you bet I started keeping a closer watch.

A few days later I began cleaning and painting the kitchen in the house to set up a temporary kitchen. I just want to do a lot more cooking, etc. The RV makes it too hard, you know? A lot of stuff was left behind by the previous owner, so I thought I’d store some of it in one of the back bedrooms until we knew what to do with it all. As I entered the room I saw nuts laying on the floor! Pecans! Do we have a mother squirrel living with us? Wait a minute, we don’t have pecan trees. Hmm. Later that evening the hubby finally fessed up to bringing them home after learning of a pecan tree growing near the alley where he’s working. “They were just laying on the ground so I started filling up my pockets.” He then explained that there are other fruits trees that are up and down the alley and we should probably go pick some of it.

Wow. Cool! Uh. Are there rules against this kind of thing? Well, it turns out that as long as we stay in the public areas we can pick fruit off trees and up off the ground; and this is actually doing the city a favor. There are hundreds of fruit trees littering the streets with fallen fruit each year and the city is overwhelmed at times in cleaning it up. Isn’t that odd? Right down the street from the largest farmers market I’d ever seen are fruit trees just waiting for you to pick them for free. Since we like to go to the market anyway, we grabbed the ladder and headed for the streets of downtown.

Not only are oranges, lemons, grapefruit, pecans, walnuts, figs, apples, peaches and loquats available at the grocery store, farmers market and the local co-op, but they are also growing all over the city. The streets and alleys are literally filled with trees of all sorts thanks to many long-time Victorian home owners and the progressive city planners of way back when. And so we filled up several buckets with free food. Big-time score. Two doors down from an orange tree, we spotted a fig tree that looked as if someone else got to it first, though there were still plenty more to come, so we’ll come back to it some other day.

And there are lemons galore! This bucket came from one tree that was leaning over into the alleyway. We didn’t even need a ladder, we just stood there in one spot picking fruit with our mouths wide open in astonishment. After a mere 45 minutes, we left with 3 buckets and a painters’ tray full of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, more pecans and figs.

Afterwards, we stopped by the farmers market. I walked by a stack of lemons, took one look at the price and out came a loud “HA!” so I had to work very hard at biting my tongue for the rest of the morning. We started adding up all the money we saved by gleaning the streets and it’s clear that it should certainly become a routine from now on. Then we noticed something else. Some of the vendors had week-old or less-than-perfect items for sale. Score again! While everyone else had apples at $1.50/lb, we bought ours at .50¢/lb. We also picked up two lunch-sized bags of week old mushrooms for $5.00, and bunches of large hot house tomatoes at $1.00/lb. All because they didn’t “look perfect”. Go figure! Another interesting find was a big bag of frozen raspberries that were left over from the previous week. Since they weren’t frozen properly all I can do is make some kind of jam out of them but that’s okay with me. It was $5.00 for what looked like $15.00’s worth. What a wonderful day of gleaning – the streets and (in a way) the market.

I knew that I would be dehydrating much of the bounty, so I pulled my trusty Nesco out of storage and got busy. The mushrooms were first and dehydrated in no time.

Believe it or not, everything comes right back to size when re-hydrated. It’s amazing. And if you store them properly, dried foods can last years and years.

The tomatoes were next and I have big plans for them when it’s all done. (I’ll post that soon.) These will be followed by the figs, some of the lemons, oranges and apples, and then finally a few other items I have in the garden like radishes and chard. Mmm, Mmm!

What a terrific way to spend the weekend. I never in a million years thought I’d say to the hubby, “I had fun gleaning with you.” Life is interesting.