G231: Gleaning

The idea of finding food for free, has been on my mind for some time. I know that there are fruit trees all over the place with fruit rotting on the branches. I have also always wanted to have mesquite trees growing close by – ever since I tasted the flour from the pods fifteen years ago in Arizona. I look out and imagine a map I could make of the square mile or so in my immediate vicinity between the highway and the ocean. I can just see it filled with notations about avocados, limes, nuts, berries . . . I plant these seeds in my own subconscious. And sometimes a ‘volunteer’ seed just starts sprouting again.

Last week after writing about food foraging and the Ice Plant recipe I decided to take this a step further. I googled and found a group,
Senior Gleaners, are all volunteers of 55 years of age and over. They volunteer their time and labor in gleaning surplus food from gardens, fields, groves and regional supermarkets to supplement the hungry and poor.

I had a great conversation with Donna, the volunteer in charge. We spoke in terms of what could happen in my area. Disappointingly, there is nothing organized along my stretch of the coast. I would have to drive pretty far inland to the fields and she also suspected I’d not be able to handle the physical. I guess the fields are up a hill.

She also organizes grocery store runs. Now I have some experience with the grocery store donations because I worked at a local Vons for a few months a few years ago. It was a stomach-turning miserable experience to see the mountains of waste and the utter disrespect shown food. There was no communication between the bakery department head and the donation pick up volunteers. Carts and carts of food was stuffed into compost boxes (or big trash bags if nobody was paying attention) every single day. We baked way in excess of demand so that bakery cases looked overflowing. *shudder* And I witnessed only one department.

The idea of spending volunteer time, fuel to pick up white bread, chemical laden cakes and donuts for people in need of meals just doesn’t appeal to me. For me it is like so many do-good enterprises that seem more about white, middle class people needing a bunch of busy activities to assure themselves they are generous. So, I left it there for now. The volunteer was dismissive anyway. She was distracted with her month long vacation starting the next day. But, a seed was planted.

I spoke briefly Sunday about preparing a map to the woman running for City Council as I was showing her the Ice Plant fruits. She is a member of Sierra Club and is a sustainability advocate. I let her know that I had my application in for the Environmental Committee and she agreed this would be something great for that group to tackle. Another seed was planted.

Today I was writing another post and searching for a citation buried somewhere within Green as a Thistle blog and found that Vanessa is writing again. In this particular post she used a term I was unfamiliar with, feral fruit. Apparently, she learned of this from Chile. Now I read Chile most every day, so I must have slept through that recent paragraph. I like the sound of feral food. Call it gleaning, foraging, feral food, fallen fruit, mapping food. Today I decided it was time to share some of these great resources and links.

With Vanessa’s post I got several more links besides Chile's. Funny how one can think he or she is alone in a thought. Nothing is individual – all is shared. Chile and Vanessa and others will approach this same theme with their own insight and expertise. I don't think any of us in this nascent world of sustainable living thinks we have it all figured out or are prepared to eliminate information.

We're all in this together — by ourselves. —Lily Tomlin
Here is the thinking behind the group calling itself Fallen Fruit.
"Public Fruit" is the concept behind the Fallen Fruit, an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood. We ask all of you to contribute your maps so they expand to cover the United States and then the world. We encourage everyone to harvest, plant and sample public fruit, which is what we call all fruit on or overhanging public spaces such as sidewalks, streets or parking lots.

We believe fruit is a resource that should be commonly shared, like shells from the beach or mushrooms from the forest. Fallen Fruit has moved from mapping to planning fruit parks in under-utilized areas. Our goal is to get people thinking about the life and vitality of our neighborhoods and to consider how we can change the dynamic of our cities and common values.
-Fallen Fruit is David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young

Here is their list of resources, from which I include the YouTube video for some instant gratification, besides planting some seeds.

Respect image from Wasted Food


bornfamous said...

What a coincidence -- I just visited a site with all kinds of information about mesquite as a food source:

Desert Harvesters: Appreciating the Native Foods of the Southwest » Mesquite Facts

Mesquite is the most common shrub/small tree of the Desert Southwest. Like many of members of the legume family, mesquite restores nitrogen to the soil.

Native Americans relied on the mesquite pod as a dietary staple from which they made tea, syrup, and ground meal called Pinole. They also used the bark for basketry, fabrics and medicine. A favorite of bees and other insects, mesquite flowers produce a fragrant honey.

Medical studies of mesquite and other desert foods show that despite its sweetness, mesquite flour is extremely effective in controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. The sweetness comes from fructose, which the body can process without insulin. In addition, soluble fibers, such as galactomannin gum in the seeds and pods slow absorption of nutrients, resulting in a flattened blood sugar curve, unlike the peaks that follow consumption of wheat flour, corn meal and other common staples.

The sweet pods are a good source of calcium, manganese, iron and zinc.
The seeds within are 40% protein. The gel-forming fiber allows foods to be
slowly digested and absorbed over a 4 to 6 hour period, rather than 1 or 2
hours, which produces a rapid rise in blood sugar.

Nutrition Facts: 100% natural mesquite meal serving size 2 tablespoons.
Amount per serving: Calories 30: Calories from fat 2: Sodium 0 mg. Total carbohydrates 6 g: Dietary fiber 3 g: Sugar 1 g: Protein 1 g:
Not a significant source of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, vitamins A and C, Calcium or iron.

katecontinued said...

See!?! Isn't this the most miraculous little tree for our region? Look no further . . . oh wait. Diversity is absolutly the key. Thanks for the facts from that website, Bornfamous. It is jam packed with data it seems.

Chile gave me a good Mesquite link last winter when I was blogging about it. I will do a search and update.

bornfamous said...

Interestingly, I just called People's Co-op in OB to ask if they have mewquite flour. They said no, but they could order it for me. So I asked where they get it, and they said Peru! I told him to forget it. I don't want to forage food in the city with all the chemicals that get sprayed everywhere, so until I can find a reasonably local [at least SW U.S.] source of mesquite flour, I guess I'll do without.

katecontinued said...

Sorry it took me so long. I am out painting a community shed today.

I can't find Chile's link. I don't know how to search blogger within the comments. Grrrr. . .

I remember having a hopeless time in Arizona when I tried to find Mesquite flour. I could only find silly little amounts - over priced in the tourist shops.

We are going to get this figured out Bornfamous. Mark my words.

(Same with amaranth, quinoa, flax - where the source is Peru. Fuck that. Let's get it going here.)

bornfamous said...

Damn, I just realized my quinoa probably comes from Peru too, and I eat a lot of it because I'm gluten sensitive. I don't think we'll find any growing locally, but there should be some in the U.S., at least. Colorado rings a bell for some reason. I'll see what I can find out. We're on a quest!

LaVonne in Rolando/SDSU area

bornfamous said...

I found the Colorado source of quinoa, but it's about twice the price of the stuff from Peru:


katecontinued said...

Thank you for this, bornfamous. I am off to finish the painting project. More later . . .

Chile said...

bornfamous - I live in the area where the Desert Harvesters are. I meant to post last year about harvesting mesquite beans for the first time and having them ground at their gathering, but never got to it. Since I still haven't used up all my flour (in the freezer) from last year, I didn't gather new beans this year.

katecontinued said...

Thank you, chile. I have my neighbor (a tree man) looking into sourcing Mesquite trees in this area. He told me he is always trying to sell the idea of this native to customers and they aren't interested. I want to tear up my driveway and plant one.