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Cherry Rescue Marathon

08.22.11

Cherries needed rescuing – about 300 lbs of them. So I made it happen.

For those of you that don’t know, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton [OFRE, pronounced 'offer'] is an organization that aligns folks with a yard full of fruit they can’t use and/or don’t want to pick with volunteers that are willing to pick it and put it to good use. This year, the yield is split between a charitable organization, OFRE, the volunteers, and the fruit growers [who often don't want their share, hence them signing up with OFRE]. It’s a very win-win-win-win situation, and I’m happy to be increasingly involved in the organization.

This year, I’m a ‘neighbourhood captain’, which essentially means I coordinate picks: get in touch with the ‘growers’ on OFRE’s list, see if they want their fruit picked, and if yes, coordinate volunteers to get it done. About a week ago, while signing up for locations, I noticed that there were about 10 locations with cherries that simply weren’t going to get done – OFRE is currently rich in growers and volunteers, but lacking captains to get the two connected. That’s not to say we don’t have great captains – it’s simply that 300-400 locations is a mammoth task to tackle no matter how you dice it. I hate seeing food go to waste. So I started sending emails.

Saturday, with a crew of 3, we set out to 6 locations around the city, armed with many buckets and some enthusiasm. We started at 8am, and were done by 3pm, having rescued about 300 lbs of cherries, seen below. We got to meet some nice folks, spend a day doing some good for the community, and go home with more cherries than any one of us likely wanted to pit. So a big thank you to all involved for proving that some serious wholesome good can come from folks simply getting in touch and sharing.

What do you do with a bucket full of cherries? Cherry pies. Cherry turnovers. Dry them for use in baking, with your morning oatmeal, or as-is. Cherry syrup for juice or to mix with sparkling water. Soak some in a bottle of vodka. We bake them into loafs, muffins, etc. Oh, black forest cake – yum. Sour cherries, although imo nasty from the tree no matter how ripe [some folks dig it], are versatile candy when cooked.

OFRE’s going to have a busy fall and the busy apple season has just begun. Edmonton is an apple town, whether you think it is or not, and OFRE has a shiny new crusher and press. You may want to sign up.

10 Responses

  1. Debra Krause says:

    i’m checking out their page right now… :)

  2. kathy doyle says:

    Wow that’s some cherry crop – the only sweet cherries I get to eat are the ones I wrap in plastic bags to keep the birds off! They don’t seem to go for the sour cherries so much, (they obviously agree with you kevin) I think they’re waiting for them to sweeten up a bit which of course they never do! Well done though. Will you be giving some good cherry recipes now? Kathy

  3. Evelyn says:

    I’m sorry that I’ve missed all of the cherry picks. I keep leaving town at exactly the wrong times. I know that the apples are starting though. I still have loads of apple products from last year, but I know that the Food Bank, and community kitchens can use them.

  4. Mel says:

    Talk about coincidental – I was just on OFRE’s website last night, thinking about volunteering! I have a question about your last line – so OFRE has processing equipment that volunteers can use for the fruit they get to keep? That might help sway me, as one of the main reasons I hadn’t gotten involved yet was due to my fear that I wouldn’t be able to deal with all that extra fruit.

  5. I wish I was there. One can never have enough cherries. OK. One can. But, WOW. It is a bit of a disease, this free fruit thing. And not even really about the free. More about the waste and trying to prevent it and preserve all of that miraculous goodness. I cannot stop once I have started until every berry is off the tree and every one is pitted and preserved. Like a full on gambling illness, except a much better outcome. But, it is a bit disturbing to see how exhausted I am and how obsessed I have become to this end.
    Good for you, Kevin. I made sour cherry iced cream differently. It is sour, but good. Like sour candies. I could use more but am really too tired to think after my weekend red pepper marathon.
    However, please call me as soon as the cranberries are up – or, if there is another cherry day. I got far too few nankings and need to make some better jelly… and you are just about to get into apple season, as you say!
    A deep bow to you. Have you pitted them all yet?
    :)
    Valerie

  6. PS – would you please comment on the mushrooms and clarify the names and kinds on the post I have up about Martina’s Potluck?
    :)
    Valerie

  7. Barry says:

    Wow, I’d use some of those to make a Sour Belgian Ale, cept with the sourness coming from the cherries instead of the yeast. Or maybe a Sour cherry and Vanilla Bouchet mead…I bet that one would turn some heads at a mead competition.

  8. Kevin says:

    Noticed another cherry pick is going on with OFRE this Friday.
    And yes Mel – they have a crusher and press for your apple excess, and have canning bees as often as possible.

  9. Debra Krause says:

    Of course I’m out of town friday (catering a lunch this weekend, friday is prep day!)
    I would love some cherries to add to my winter stash of goodies…
    But there’s always next year, and I’ll be better prepared for it all then too :)
    … my list of things to do next year just keeps growing and growing… but in a good way!

  10. Hilda says:

    I’ve already checked to see if Calgary has a similar program (they do) and I’ll be signing up for sure! Right now I just knock on neighbours doors of fruit trees I see, but this is a fantastic idea.
    Thanks for sharing!

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