Apples for the Picking...

I love the Fall for its bountiful offering of sweet and tart new apples.  Farmers' markets are teeming with an abundant diversity of varieties that one can try.  I love to eat different types of apples, raw or cooked, in savory dishes or sweet ones.  Do all these apples keep the doctor away?  I'm not sure they always do. Reading Michael Pollen's The Botany of Desire, I learned that this old slogan was purposely promoted by apple growers during the prohibition era.  The banning of alcohol consumption threatened the livelihood of apple growers who were heavily invested in the production of hard cider.  They decided that it was time for a makeover.

The old saying provided an avenue to highlight the healthy benefits of apples and rebrand the fruits as a source of wholesome well-being for children and adults alike.  This rebranding exercise was obviously successful.  Apples are now the most commonly consumed fruit in Canada.  The old saying is now so firmly implanted in the collective memory of Americans and Canadians alike that it became the focus of a Wizard of Oz comic strip published a few years ago.  The strip showed a doctor standing on his doorstep, looking conspicuously at a cart of apples.  The doctor yells:  "Beat it!  I'm trying to make a living here!"

gleaners picking apples 1

The apples sweetness and their portability make them a well sought-after fruit among gleaners.  Unfortunately, securing opportunities to organize gleaning trips to apple orchards has been challenging.  Our new Tree for the Picking program, however, provides an opportunity to remedy this situation.  In the last few weeks, we have organized several apple picking outings for gleaners.  Another excursion is planned for this coming Thursday.  Collectively these trips have led to the harvesting of over 6 bushels of apples from different neighbourhoods in the city and county. The first apple picking outing of the season took place in an East City backyard.  Four gleaners came, equipped with a couple of tarps as well as four fruit pickers to harvest the bounty of the trees.  The owner noted that the gleaners "did a great job on the trees."  They were able to harvest most of the apples, except for a few which were too high to reach.

gleaners picking apples 4

Tree for the Picking does not use ladders.  Gleaners use two kinds of extendable pickers with baskets at the top to harvest as much fruit as possible.  The process is very gentle on the trees as well as on the volunteer gleaners.

gleaners picking apples 2

Once the harvest is complete, the site is cleaned up and left the way it was before the arrival of the gleaners.  The goal of the program is to ensure that locally grown fruit does not go to waste.  Gleaners harvest apples, pears, plums and nut trees and share the bounty with local food programs.  Half of the apples picked in the last few weeks were dropped off at the OPIRG food bank.

baked granola apples

If you have a lot of apples to use up, this Baked Granola Apples recipe from the Dietitians of Canada might be just what you need to keep the doctor away:

4 apples
3/4 cup low-fat granola
2 tsp margarine
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1. Core apples, creating a large hollow. Firmly pack with granola and dot with margarine. Place on pie plate.
2. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt and maple syrup, set aside.
4. Place each apple in a dessert bowl and garnish with maple-flavored yogurt.