The Gleaning of Denver: Pick Fruit and Help Those in Need!
Did you know there are hundreds of fruiting vines and trees in public spaces of the Denver Metro area and that most of the fruit produced by those plants, thousands of pounds of fruit, goes unused and left to rot? Neither did I!
A new project here in Denver called The Gleaning of Denver, a partnership of Slow Food Denver, History Colorado, is on a mission to harvest that delicious fruit at the peak of freshness, preserve it and give it to those in need.
Food that would otherwise go unused can now go to people right here in the Denver Metro area who may not have access to fresh-off-the-vine sun-ripened fruits.
Gleaning is the ancient practice of gathering food crops that would otherwise go unused. Dating back to biblical times, gleaning is coming back in full force today.
Billions and billions of pounds of produce goes to waste in this country before it even leaves the farm. Billions? What does a billion pounds of produce look like? How about 1,000 pounds of cherries or a million pounds of tomatoes?
It’s challenging to think in such staggering quantities. However, it’s estimated that nearly 100 BILLION pounds of produce in the US ends up wasted and in many cases doesn’t even leave the farm.
On the farm, what happens to the green peppers that are slightly misshapen? What happens to all the “excess” turnips during a bumper crop year when the markets are all ready saturated?
When I was a kid I spent part of the summer with my best friend at her father’s house in the Sierra Nevada mountains. On this particular visit the blackberries were in full fruit.
Along every road and every path, in the forest and in the town there were wild blackberries bursting with flavor, getting plump and ripe under the hot California summer sun. Every house had a wild plant nearby. There were so many plants and although many people harvested a lot of it for their own personal use, most of the fruit was not harvested and went to waste.
My friend and I spent the better part of one day walking through the neighborhood picking the ripe fruit along the side of the road – very low traffic on mountain neighborhood roads = very safe.
By the time we got back to the house our fingers and faces were purple and there were a only dozen fruit in the bucket. I swear we were picking for a good 4 hours but not many fruit made it home!
Slow Food Denver and History Colorado have teamed up along with MM Local Foods and Project Angel Heart to harness the power of community and bring fresh, nutritious foods to those with life-threatening illness.
On July 10th, you can take part in the first Gleaning of Denver! The 2011 inaugural harvest will focus on cherries in July and grapes in August. The harvested cherries and grapes will be canned in the kitchens of Project Angel Heart.
MM Local Foods will teach a class on how to preserve and can this wonderful bounty that would have otherwise gone to waste. All participants will take some of the yumminess home. The rest will be distributed through the Project Angel Heart network.
MM Local Food has donated their older style canning jars to the event – jars that, also, may have gone unused. MM Local Food partners with local growers to pick produce at the height of ripeness, and preserve those delicious local flavors using the most natural and traditional methods of putting food by. So we can all eat local and delicious, all year round.
Project Angel Heart is a community organization that works to provide those living with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses healthy meals and proper nutrition — vital in the fight against disease. During eighteen years of phenomenal growth, their goal has always remained the same: ‘meals with love’ for men, women, and children living with life-threatening illness.
Since its founding in 1858 as a mining town in the Colorado Territory, Denver has grown in size, shape, and character and people from all over the world have lived in this region at one time or another. Over time those diverse residents infused the area with their culture in many forms, including horticulture – they planted fruit trees and vines to sustain themselves.
Fast forward 150 years, and today we have a vibrant city that is still filled with diverse culture and a vast array of fruiting vines and trees in what are now historic neighborhoods. All this fruit goes unused because the plants are on public land and no one takes an active role to care for them, or the plants exist on private property that has changed ownership through the years and the current owners don’t know what to do with the fruit.
History Colorado will provide tools and resources for participants and property owners to do some digging into the historical past of these fruiting plants. We can learn a tremendous amount of information about the people who were instrumental in shaping the character of Denver by looking at the variety of food crops they planted. As the project matures and grows and more information is collected about where different plant species reside we can start to piece together a little more of our city’s past.
Here’s your chance to visit historic neighborhoods in the Denver Metro area and spend a beautiful July day picking cherries and grapes bursting with flavor and provide good, nutritious foods to people who can really benefit from it.
Here’s how you can get involved:
Register a fruit tree or vine! Do you have a fruit tree or vine on your property? Do you know someone who has a fruit tree or vine on their property that goes unused? Register the plant for potential harvesting on http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/F6WSPB7. Once registered, you will be contacted prior to the harvest to confirm your participation and check on the progress of the fruit.
Sign up to pick fruit! Anyone over the age of 12 interested in volunteering to pick fruit can register by calling 303-866-4686. Once you sign up, you will be contacted with exact picking dates.
Sign up to can the fresh picked fruit! Register by calling 303-866-4686. The cost is $10 per person for members of History Colorado or Slow Food Denver; $15 per person for the general public. The date for the cherry canning class is July 10; the date for the grape canning class will be determined.