scrump v. Brit informal steal (fruit) from an orchard or garden – ORIGIN from dialect, ‘withered apple’. Source: Pocket Oxford English Dictionary.
The Joy of Free Food
We all remember the school harvest festival. The front of the assembly hall filled with apples and marrows, but your gift was always random tins of spam and spaghetti that your Dad had grabbed from the back of the cupboard. Now, reclaim your inner farmer, because I guarantee to you that wherever you live in Britain you are near at least one source of free autumn harvest. Whether it’s a neighbour’s apple tree, blackberries and wild plums in a hedge, mushrooms in the woods, there is food for the well-mannered taking.
There has been plenty written about foraging, try “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey for loads of ideas. Instead, this post is about finding fruit trees.
How to Find a Fruit Tree
This is easier than you think at this time of year. Walking to the tube through the urban jungle with your headphones in; mind on the day ahead; stop. Look up as you walk, you will almost certainly see apples in local trees. Look down as you walk and you will find yourself squashing windfalls.
If this doesn’t work, thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can see where other people local to you have found fruit – www.fallingfruit.org. This is what the internet was created for, share your own finds too.
The M25 cuts through my home town high above our heads. My favourite fruit tree is right next to it, but down at town level. I like to imagine someone tossing an apple core out of the car window, over the fence and it finding fertile soil in our little town.
How to Pick your Fruit
Since this is a polite, law abiding website, I would recommend asking the tree owner before picking fruit. Generally they are burdened with more fruit than they can cope with and will be happy to let you have some.
I also suggest you get one of these fruit pickers to reduce the risk of injury. Otherwise, maybe stick to windfalls.
Here are some ideas of what to do with fruit once you have picked it. You need to get a book like “How to Store Your Garden Produce” by Piers Warren for the finer points on some of these methods.
- Apples and Pears will keep in a cool dark place. They should be the best specimens you can find, not touching, so wrap in paper, or place separately. Fruit that ripens later in the season will keep better than others.
- Plums can be bottled in Kilner jars, but this method does require precision so don’t attempt without proper instruction.
- There are loads of recipes for compotes online. I make a great plum one with star anise, cinnamon, maple syrup, figs and plums. Then put in icecube trays in the freezer. A cube for your porridge in the morning is amazing.
- Stewed apples, plums and pears can all go in the freezer.
- Blackberries and plums you can spread on a tray and freeze, then pop in a freezer bag so you can take out a handful when you want them.
- Try a service like http://myapplejuice.co.uk/ where you take your apples and they juice and bottle them for you.
So, even if you just rescue a bagful, remember you get free food and the satisfaction that you’ve reduced waste and reclaimed your hunter gatherer roots. If you need more inspiration, watch this film of my kids, in the rain singing and picking plums in our friend’s garden.