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The Garden Guru

Roadside Fruit

Jim Boxberger Jr.
Posted 9/10/21

Taking a drive Labor Day Monday, I couldn’t help but notice all the fruit hanging on trees that no one cares for anymore. Old farmhouses that are no longer occupied, roadside orchards and even …

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The Garden Guru

Roadside Fruit

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Taking a drive Labor Day Monday, I couldn’t help but notice all the fruit hanging on trees that no one cares for anymore. Old farmhouses that are no longer occupied, roadside orchards and even uncut hay fields lined with apple or pear trees.

Now none of this fruit will go to waste as there is a myriad of critters all waiting for it to fall. But even though this fruit may not win a blue ribbon at the fair, it is still highly useful if someone would just pick it. These apples and pears would be perfect for things like sauces, ciders and jams.

The fruit is usually smaller in size due to the fact that the trees have not been tended. They haven’t been pruned, limed or fertilized like the trees that we keep in our backyards that produce large, luscious fruits, so for jams and sauces there might be a lot more peeling involved than you might want to do.

In the case of pears, the whole fruit simply gets crushed, skin and all. I remember as a child going with my parents to the North Branch Cider Mill and watching them crush large bins of apples at one time and seeing the fresh cider run down into a holding tank.

Back then they didn’t pasteurize the cider, so after a week or two even in the refrigerator if you didn’t drink it all it would start to turn. Turning wasn’t always a bad thing, especially if you like hard cider. Even the apples that fall to the ground will start to turn if not eaten in a timely fashion.

Once while visiting a deer camp in Claryville in late October, I saw a few deer that had been eating quite a few turned apples. Needless to say they staggered and swayed just like people do when we have had one too many.

I think next weekend, I am going to get out my fruit picker and take another drive around and fill up a couple bushel baskets and make some homemade cider this year. I have looked into selling small cider presses at the store but because it is such a niche market, none of our distributors carry them.

So if your are looking for one, it looks like your best bet is the internet. I have seen many different types offered, but most manufacturers these days sell direct to consumer. I’m not sure yet how I am going to press my apples. I have a juicer, but that strains out all the pulp that makes cider, well cider.

A juicer will give you apple juice. Nice but not what I am looking for. So I am probably going to make a small make-shift cider press, using cheesecloth, boards and a bench vise. I will wrap a small amount of apples in the cheesecloth, then place them between the boards and squeeze with the bench vise.

Of course the larger the vise, the more you can squeeze at one time. The beauty of this is that the apples or pears do not need to look pretty, they just need to taste good. There is a bounty of fruit out there just waiting to be picked.

It is hard to believe that for the last thirty-eight years, I have been selling fruit trees in Sullivan County, first with my dad at Liberty Agway and now at Monticello Farm Home & Garden. Over that time span I have sold over ten thousand fruit trees that have been mostly planted in Sullivan County.

Some of the trees that I see along roadsides now could be ones that I sold over thirty years ago that someone planted with all good intentions, but let’s face it, things change. Now these trees are producing fruit every year for someone who isn’t there anymore to enjoy it.

Well one thing is for sure, the critters will enjoy everything we leave behind.

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