The tree tonight was SO plum-laden, the owners had its branches propped up with a 2×4!
Volunteers are needed to help glean area plums this time of year. Mild winters, minimal rainfall during the growing season and low humidity conditions create productive crops. Oregon is a top grower of plums, second only to California in production in the United States. Eugene is fortunate to host many delicious varieties.
“Feel the fruit to determine its stage of ripeness. Fully ripe plums will feel slightly soft and yield to slight finger pressure. Gently apply pressure to the fruit with your thumb to check for softness. The skin will feel powdery, and the fruit will give off a pleasant aroma. Less ripe fruit will feel firm and smooth.” – gardenguides.com
Blue-black Italian prune-plums like “Blue Damsons” are best for drying. Yellow ones like “Yellow Egg” (oval) or “Shiro” (round) can make a tangy jam and are sweetest when soft. Red plums like “Santa Rosa” fruits have red skin, a slightly crisper texture and a sweet-tart taste lovely for eating fresh from the tree.
Store at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate.
A video from the Portland Fruit Tree Project explaining how volunteers collect fresh fruit that grows on neighborhood trees, and drops it off at local Food Banks for distribution to those in need. The great thing about this program is that in large part, the fruit would not be harvested or eaten by anyone—if not for fruit gleaning. Everyone involved benefits, including the trees, as harvesting is beneficial to their health!
Every Wednesday, a Eugene Area Gleaner volunteer picks up a donation from the Bread Stop and the Muffin Mill. We cannot predict how much bread or the types that will be donated. It is simply a gift. Sometimes it is there in abundance, sometimes it is not. Types of breadstuffs we have seen include: sliced bread (wheat, rye, white, sourdough, flaxseed, multigrain, potato), rounds (rosemary, potato), focaccia, french bread, hoagie rolls, hamburger buns, pizza dough (rare), challah, granola, rolls. Types of muffins, etc that we’ve seen: muffins, cookies, cake, cheesecake, and cinnamon buns.
The bread is amazing quality; no preservatives, all-natural, which means it goes moldy fast. Because we are receiving this gift at or near the sell-by date, I recommend refrigerating or freezing the bread if it cannot be used immediately. We sort the bread (moldy or not) upon arrival. People with chickens take the moldy bread so that nothing goes to waste.
We rotate the location of the initial bread donation every month to reach as many Gleaners as possible. The driver volunteer meets the host volunteer and hands off the bread. The Host will set up the bread in front of his or her house (preferably covered and not muddy!) with flyers explaining what the bread is for and what our group does, inviting new members. They will then email the list with their name, address, phone number, and approximately what is available at the start of the donation.
Please be sure to “Like” The Bread Stop and The Muffin Mill on Facebook!
The hazelnut is Oregon’s official state nut. Oregon is the only state that has an official state nut. Oregon hazelnuts, still called filberts by most farmers, account for 99 percent of hazelnut production in the United States. Hazelnut orchards and individuals with trees that bear more nuts than they can use call the Gleaners to help share the resource.
Harvesting hazelnuts means gathering them as they fall from the trees – before autumn rains, if possible. You can shake branches lightly but it is seldom necessary. A rake can help with gathering the nuts quickly.
” After harvest, hazelnuts should be dried before eating or storage. Begin drying within 24 hours of harvest. You can save drying time if you shell the nuts first. Small lots can be dried above a furnace or radiator as long as the temperature does not exceed 105 degrees. Hazelnut kernels are firm at first and become spongy during the drying process. As they approach dryness, they become firm again. The internal color gradually changes from white to a creamy color, starting at the outside. When the color reaches the center of the kernel, the nut is dry. – OSU Extension Service
“Whether storing dried nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, or chestnuts) or fresh chestnuts,” Raab said, “the best choice is to store them in a freezer or refrigerator. You also can store them in a cool room (55 degrees or lower) if refrigeration is not possible.” Canning is also a possibility, and the FS 146 publication tells how to do it. You can roast nuts in the oven, as well. Recipes are included.” – OSU Extension Service
Picture from Apple/plum glean this weekend. Deirdre’s son! Thanks for letting us come Cynthia & Ryan!
Fall is apple time in Eugene. Many varieties of apples thrive in the Willamette valley including Braeburn, which ripens in early October and stores well. Jonagold and Gala ripen in late September and have a crisp flavor. Fresh picked off the tree, a juicy ripe apple is hard to beat.
“Picking apples directly from a tree is easy. Roll the apple upwards off the branch and give a little twist; don’t pull straight away from the tree. If two apples are joined together at the top, both will come away at the same time. Don’t shake the trees or branches. If the apple you are trying to pick drops, (or others on the tree) go ahead and pick it up. They’re perfectly fine! A visitor who grew up on an orchard says to try to leave the stem on the apples. He says that helped them store longer!” – pickyourown.org
Dried apple chips are a popular preparation method for preserving the bounty. Apple Sharlotka is a delicious dessert that is as beautiful as it is tasty. Fallen or beat up looking apples still make a good applesauce but give them a good dunk in cold water with some salt added to ease out any worms first, then rinse them well in water with some vinegar added to release any grit.
Store apples and pears in clean wooden or cardboard boxes that are ventilated to allow air circulation. If you have a crisper drawer in your refrigerator, use it for apples, it works beautifully.
Blueberries are a favorite glean. It can be a challenge to locate every ripe berry on a bush but the payoff is sweet. Blueberries are high in antioxidant and vitamins and packed with flavor. Lane County has a great number of growers (see http://www.oregonblueberry.com).
“If you carry your berries in a bucket, you may want to add a rope on the bucket so that you can hang it around your neck or over your shoulder. An excellent bucket can easily be made by taking a 1 gallon plastic milk jug and cutting off 1/2 of the top and sides, making sure you leave the handle part on. You can then put the handle through your belt, and you now have two hands to pick with! Kids – have your parents cut the milk jug for you.” – http://www.wikihow.com/Pick-Blueberries
From muffins, smoothies and pie to cookies, popsicles, and freezer jam, these berries are versatile and easy to use.
“Remove any twigs or leaves along with any berries that are soft or moldy. Refrigerate in the original container up to five days. When you’re ready to use them, rinse berries under cold water, drain, and pat dry.” – http://www.marthastewart.com
“Talk about a convenience food: no pit, no peel, no puttering. Even freezing is a snap. Which makes it the perfect fruit for people who have to put off the making of their preserves until the fall or winter. Just pack the berries into freezer bags and pop them into the freezer.” – http://www.registerguard.com/
Great video where gleaners talk about waste over a background of photos of gleaners rescuing red lettuce from a field for distribution to food banks and soup kitchens. Ag Against Hunger organized the glean and refrigerated and distributed the food. The Gleaning Stories Project collected the audio, took the photos, and produced the video.