Gleaning

sign at a pick-your-own apple farmMy third type of harvest, and my good deed for Thanksgiving to boot: Gleaning apples in support of New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger.

The Brit and I were part of a relatively small group of volunteers who descended Saturday on a pick-your-own apple farm in northern New Jersey. The farmer said he’d had a great year, but there were plenty of apples still on the trees and yet more good ones on the ground. The goal was to collect enough apples for other people to pack into mixed bags for food pantries to hand out for Thanksgiving. So the apples didn’t have to be the perfect “fancy” grade that you find in a supermarket. We were told to also take those with a bruise that could be cut out and used for pie or apple sauce. Here’s to hoping the recipients don’t turn up their noses at something less than perfect!

Apples on a treeCan’t reach the apples on the tree? Some people used an apple-picking tool that kind of looks like a lacrosse stick. Painfully slow. The rest of us learned to give the tree a strong two-handed shake that would send the apples falling to the ground, where they generally survived (some did crack) and we’d recover them. Quick, but the downside was a few bops to the head from falling apples. One woman decided her basket could serve as an ad-hoc helmet, but I just took the hits.

basket of apples

It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and we filled basket after basket, dumping them in turn into giant bins that hold more than 1,000 pounds. We only started to flag in the final half hour. Still, we harvested about 15,000 pounds of various varieties of apples in under three hours — a record for one gleaning there, the farmer said. And we didn’t finish. There’s another gleaning planned for Saturday.

If the apples don’t get picked, they’ll just go to waste.

And it’s still shocking how many apples already are being left to rot on the ground to turn into compost by spring. Imagine what you could d if you had a cider press!

Bonus for us volunteers: We all went home with a bag of apples. I went for the green-gold Crispins (sweet and crisp) and the red Winesap, a tart and firm heirloom variety. I made some apple crisp, but it’s time to start looking for some more imaginative recipes.

pallets of apples

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