By Andrea Prazmowski –
When Tina Le Moine looks over the rows of fruit preserves on her pantry shelves, she sees the whole neighbourhood – pale yellow pears from a tree on Wellington; crab apples from her neighbour on Grange Avenue; garnet-hued plums from a nearby street; elderberry juice, applesauce and more from backyards and front yards and city property throughout the neighbourhood.
Those tastes of the neighbourhood will help sustain her through the winter months. “When it gets cold and dreary I like to open a jar and remember the summer and when we harvested the fruit,” she says.
It will be a feat for her to remember every harvest, though. Tina is a volunteer Neighbourhood Leader with Hidden Harvest Ottawa, which marked its fourth full season rescuing fruits and nuts that would otherwise go to waste and sharing them with the community. This year in Kitchissippi, Tina and other volunteers harvested 27 trees, for a total yield of 1192 pounds. Half was donated to the Parkdale Food Centre and the Westboro Region Food Bank. The rest was divided among the homeowners, the volunteers and Hidden Harvest.
It’s clear what motivates Tina to volunteer. Her eyes grow wider when she recalls seeing ripe fruit weighing down tree branches and then falling to the ground. “I see the fruit going to waste,” she says. “But it’s actually edible. We can feed people! We can feed them with food that is available right here.”
So, when Tina travels through Kitchissippi, she sees things differently from most people. She constantly scans the tree branches, watching how they blossom in the spring and noting the progress of the fruit. When the fruit ripens, she quickly coordinates a harvest. She knows which trees are registered with Hidden Harvest, looks for other candidates and slips a flyer in the mailbox to encourage the homeowner to register the tree.
More trees are registered every year and more volunteers sign up to help. This season the Parkdale Food Centre also invited people who use the centre to help harvest. It’s another “fruitful” aspect of the connection with Hidden Harvest, says Centre Coordinator, Alissa Campbell.
“It’s great to have that opportunity for anyone to go and collect food and bring it back to the food bank. Also, we really want to build resilient neighbourhoods where the assets in our community are meeting the needs in our community.”
This year, the centre distributed pears, grapes, apples, crab apples and walnuts, all from the neighbourhood. They also processed some of the harvest. The crab apples are abundant and not very popular when they’re fresh, so a lot of them became applesauce.
Two of Hidden Harvest’s partners, Michael’s Dolce and Top Shelf Preserves, also create preserves with the various fruits and then give a portion back to the organization to help fund the work. As well, Beau’s All Natural Brewing is a major sponsor.
In a workshop run by Top Shelf Preserves, Tina Le Moine and others learned how to dehydrate crab apples and turn them into chips. She munches them by the handful. But her favourite fruit is the elderberry, which her mother introduced to her when she was growing up in Berlin.
“She never wasted any fruit. So, my love for canning runs in the family. We had tons of fruit growing in our backyard. Come harvesting season, my mother would spend hours canning and making juice,” says Tina. “My grandmother sat on the terrace outside peeling apples and we all helped to pit cherries while chatting away. It’s a fond memory.”
Today, Tina’s teenaged daughter and son, and husband Doug, get to enjoy the benefits of that family tradition. And no doubt many of the people on their Christmas list will also soon be enjoying gifts of the summer, the bounty from the neighbourhood’s trees, all wrapped up in glowing glass jars.
Tina suggests several ways to support Hidden Harvest:
- Register your tree at http://ottawa.hiddenharvest.ca/offer-or-pick/.
- Sign up to volunteer at the above link.
- Buy Michael’s Dolce and Top Shelf Preserves products. They make great gifts and are available at locations across Kitchissippi.