Sometimes - usually in the summer and fall - the frugalist is lucky enough to acquire a bag or more of fresh fruit to eat, juice, ferment, dry, or make jam with. Here are easy, common places to find such windfalls.
Where do Free Fruit Windfalls Come From?
- From Friends and Family - I often end up with a windfall of citrus fruit. I have family and friends in Southern California, and there is never any way I can eat enough oranges, lemons, lime, grapefruit and tangelos to keep up with the fruit. I also know people with apple trees, crabapple trees, peach trees and plum trees that are always begging me to take fresh fruit off their hands. Somehow there are never too many avocados to pass around, but definitely citrus always goes begging.
- From Foraging - I get a great deal of joy from finding fresh foods from nature, my neighborhood, and in abandoned lots. Last fall I had several 5 gallon buckets of beautiful red prickly pear fruits. I made wine from some and dried fruit jerky from others...and still ended up composting several pounds that managed to rot before I could make jam.
A few years ago when I lived in Seattle, I was overjoyed but overwhelmed with blueberries and raspberries. I ate some fresh, baked with some, froze some, put berries over ice cream, and gave some away...and still had more than I could use in time.
Right now I have a temporary landlord with a laden, ignored lemon tree. You bet I am busy looking up ways to use lemons at this time. I am surprised at the many unusual options out there.
- By Observing and Asking - Usually crabapple tree owners let all their crabapples go to waste, since they are not especially tasty raw. All that produce can be yours for the asking. There are tons of recipes on the web for cooking, fermenting and baking with these humble fruits. Even people with regular apple trees often can't be bothered to keep up with their harvest. If you see a tree littering the ground with wasted produce of any kind, it can't hurt to ask if you can bushel things up and take them away. You can do this in your own neighborhood, while traveling, or when visiting a friend. Keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to ask people for the food - they might be very happy to help someone out, or glad someone is cleaning the fruit from the yard for them. It is usually easiest to mention you are experimenting with canning fruit this year (or whatever the case may be with your preservation interests - maybe you are making fruit wine) - people do find that pretty interesting. :)
- From your own Gardens - If you garden at all, you will end up with more food than you can use in time, unless you are really on top of cooking and preserving. Even a tiny little tomato bush in a pot on your front stoop can overwhelm you. Once I had a tiny yellow pear tomato plant that I could never keep up with using. I kept bowls of them around my house for guests to much on. Once a certain garden crop gets going, often the race is on to eat, preserve and gift your produce away while still edible.
- From Dumpster Diving - People who aren't afraid to take fresh food from bins behind commercial centers often find entire cartons of fruit that are perfectly delicious and healthy to eat, but are no longer considered sellable. I've found many pounds of slightly brown bananas that were ideal to bake with, and apples with bruises that can be easily cut away.
- From Farmer's Markets - At the end of a weekend market, many growers would rather give away their excess then see things go to waste. You can always ask, too.
- From Freecycle and Craigslist - you can look for free and barter ads in your local online communities, or post a request for free fruit yourself. You might get inundated with produce, so be ready to start preserving when you get the call. :)
For people on a tight budget, you can really find a ton of free fresh fruit to help supplement your diet and put food away for winter. Don't be too proud to make use of the bounty around you. It's a fun hobby, and it satisfies our 'gatherer' instincts of the past!
Resources for Fruit Growing and Foraging from Amazon -
- Wild Edible Fruits and Berries
- Landscaping With Fruit: Strawberry ground covers, blueberry hedges, grape arbors, and 39 other luscious fruits to make your yard an edible paradise