Posted on Fri, February 06, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
1 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming,
by Slow Food USA staffer Jenny Trotter
In October, I harvested my apple tree. How does an apartment-dwelling, backyard-less, city girl have an apple tree? Well, I leased it from a farm. For $50 I purchased an Empire apple tree from Liberty View Farm and after the first good frost in October, when the apples were crisp, sweet and delicious, my husband and I drove north from New York City to the Hudson Valley to pick apples. Though our little tree was not much taller than us, it sure delivered. Farmer Billiam estimated there were over 150 pounds of apples on our tree.
With an apple-aholic husband and a growing interest in food preservation, this seemed like the perfect testconsuming/putting up a trees-worth of apples. The picking apples part was fun, easy work. But as the numerous bags of apples piled up around the tree I thought to myself, Are we nuts?! Well, all the food preservation turned out to be much easier than I thought. Between the pies, applesauce, apple butter, sweet chutney, spicy chutney, apple cider (yes, we used an old grape press to press some apples late one night in a Brooklyn woodshop) and frozen apples slices, we managed to consume or use them all. Of course we ate many raw (delicious!) and gave a number away to friends.
One thing that amazed me about the lease-an-apple-tree deal was the price. Billiam estimates that most of his trees produce 80 to 120 pounds of fruit, which translates to apples for about 50 cents per pound. This felt like a steal, especially since apples at my local farmers market cost four times as much. Is this really a good deal for the farmer? Billiam told us its about twice as much as what conventional apples go for, and because he is directly marketing to consumers who pick their own apples, he doesnt have to do what all the conventional apple farmers do: picking, packing, unpacking, washing, packing, sorting and delivering, which takes away from the profit, too.
It works well for him to lease a third of his trees, leave a third for u-pick, and pick a third for selling wholesale and at farmers markets. During harvest when people come to pick apples, Billiam puts out a basket for leasers extra apples if they think they have too much. He then donates the excess to local food pantries. (This past year he donated 6,000 pounds.) For Billiam, leasing apple trees is a winning idea and its been great marketing, bringing increased traffic to his farm stand.
U-pick is a common sight all over but the lease-a-tree idea was new to me. Are other farmers doing this, too? Could it be a trend? After talking to Billiam and doing a little internet sleuthing, we found a few other farms that lease trees: peach trees in Arizona , an Ark of Taste Fay Elberta peach tree in California, and apple trees in Michigan. We even found a site where you can lease everything from an apple tree to a sugar maple tree to a cow (though you dont get to harvest the food yourself). If you know of other lease-a-tree farms out there, tell us!
Valentines Day fast approaches
and if you have a hubby like me,
how about leasing an apple tree?
Then come harvest time, you can try this apple chutney recipe from Slow Food member Sherri Brooks Vinton:
Spicy Apple Chutney
2 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups chopped, peeled, cored apples
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
2 cups raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
In a large saucepan combine vinegar, apples, sugar, onions, ginger, garlic, peppers, raisins, and cranberries and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining ingredients and simmer an additional 15 minutes.
Ladle chutney into clean, hot preserving jars leaving ½-inch headspace from top of liquid to jar lid. Run a wooden skewer or plastic knife around inside of jar to release any trapped air and add more chutney if necessary to retain headspace. Wipe rim clean with a damp paper towel. Top jar with lid and screw band, tightening until just finger-tip tight.
Place a layer of screw bands on the bottom of a stock pot to elevate jars then add filled jars and enough water to cover by two inches. Bring water to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool for five minutes. Using canning tongs, remove jars from water bath and leave, undisturbed for 24 hours to seal and cool. Remove screw bands, gently press lids up to confirm seals, wipe off any residual moisture and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.
Makes about 5 cups.