Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Collect Windfall Apples

11/12/2008 3:57:30 PM

Tags: apples, food foraging

windfall applesA time-honored tradition for country folk is harvesting wild foods, such as fiddle-head ferns in the spring. But sometimes, on the edges of former homesteads, you can find semi-wild foods (or food that has gone wild!), such as apples.

Pioneers and homesteaders have been planting apple trees since Plymouth days. Apples are a wonderfully versatile fruit; they can be stored for months and used as is, or transformed into cider, sauce, and dried apples for pies and cobblers. Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) spent much of his life in the late 1700 and early 1800s planting apple nurseries, primarily in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. It is said that some of those trees are still bearing apples.

But you don’t have to go to those states to find free-for-the-asking apples. Just by taking an autumn drive in the country, you will probably find an old farmstead with an apple tree or two loaded with apples, ready to become deer and bear fodder. Before picking, always try to find who owns the trees and if it is OK to pick the apples. You also might find trees, full of ripe apples, in your neighbor’s. They may be thrilled to have someone pick them rather than having to deal with rotting apples in the grass.

I was prompted to write about windfall apples by my experience at work this week. A group of us were taking our noon walk, where we routinely pass a closed retirement facility. Most of the leaves have fallen and so I noticed a formerly hidden tree, full of red somethings. On closer inspection, I discovered that it was an apple tree, still loaded with good fruit. Since no one is currently living on the site, I felt comfortable taking a few apples to make into apple sauce. Many of the apples had blemishes and some bug spots, but on the whole, they were perfect for boiling down for sauce. What a serendipitous find!!

I think I will make a note on the calendar for next fall to locate some more orphan apple trees in my area. Making apple sauce from a variety of apple types makes for the best tasting sauce. And if I find enough really tasty ones, I can make my father's favorite apple dessert - a schnitz pie. But that story will have to wait for another day.

Do you have a favorite found food? Tell us about it.

Photo by SuperND/Fotolia


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11/21/2008 12:58:31 PM
I live in Ohio, and I am very interested in learning where I can find these free apples for the taking. I buy local produce as much as possible during the summer and fall, but it is still trucked in to the city from farms an hour away. There is an apple orchard about 45 minutes from my house that I love to visit, but I don't feel I'm really reducing my carbon footprint at all by making that drive to buy the apples.... Where can I find a list of freely growing apple trees to pick from?

Paul Gardener
11/12/2008 6:05:30 PM
I am ALL about found foods! I live in northern UT, and am lucky enough to be able to get out every spring and harvest free wild (fully wild not feral) asparagus. My wife and kids and I have also clloected fruit from abandonded or otherwise neglected trees in many locations. One favorite of ours was some plums that we harvested from a graveyard where they had been planted decades ago as a border along the back edge. We made a beautifully irridescent-red plum jelly that we aptly named "Tombstone jelly". I've also found that in some of the older neighborhoods here, a walk through an alleyway reveals back fences overgrown with blackberries and raspberries. Ask the owners first and most often they're glad to have you clean them up. Also, It's always a good thing to secure your place for next season with a jar of preserves dropped off to them when your finished. Great post Heidi! P~

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