Urban Sidewalk Gleaning - Pears. It Ain't Always Pretty, But It Sure Can be Beautiful

In my last post about gleaning fruit from the sidewalk and gutter of an urban setting, I did my best to clean up the fruit and make it look pretty, in order to help sell the concept. Go ahead and have a look at my gleaned plums and the resulting tart. I think that plum pictures is one of my best (toot toot, that would be my own horn). But I wonder if I've done a disservice to foraging and gleaning by presenting too pretty a picture.

You see, when you glean food out of the gutter, it ain't pretty. The fruit has fallen off the tree ripe, which means that is squishes and splatters on impact. People walk by and step on it, bugs and squirrels take their share. Go ahead, look, this is the reality. Does it disgust you? I eat food that has previously been nibbled by bugs and birds and critters.

It doesn't disgust me. I take it home, and with a simple cut and a simple scrub under running water, I've got good food. Really good food. How do I know? I've seen it with my own eyes. I've seen the trees that the fruit grows upon, I've seen how the orbs fall to the ground. I know. I know that this food may have been chewed and mashed (and I can make easy work of it with a knife), but it is still excellent food. I feel safe in that knowledge.

But you see, I don't feel safe when I buy pears at the store. It's an unknown, a relative crapshoot. How many human hands have touched it? How many of them didn't wash after they sneezed or peed? Yes, that's gross, apologies. But is that any more gross than cutting away a bug-eaten spot? And with conventional produce, there are further unknowns, even scarier than human hands - pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers. Grocery store produce is the real horror show, it's plasticine facade belying the reality - nature manipulated and molded and folded beyond repair. The picture is pretty, but what lies beneath the glossy cover?

When I have the choice, I'll take my known risks. I know that the fruit I picked out of the gutter may have been stepped upon, may have been chewed by squirrels. I know how to deal with these known risks.

Now, I won't claim for a second to have never bought conventional produce. But when I do so, I understand that I'm making a deal with the devil. And I've always got amazing super powers in my pocket - knowledge and choice. But more and more, I'm not seeing any reason to purchase from the grocery store, I'm able to forage and glean all that I need, and can preserve it if need be.

So, as long as the weather in the Rockies allows it, I'll choose to pick my food out of the gutters. And I'll continue to make gourmet delights from my gleaned fruit, too. The pictures show my homemade pear brandy and a pear camembert tart. Think about that squished fruit on the city sidewalk, and then take a look at the brandy and tart. The possibilities are beautiful, aren't they?

I'm sharing this one with Fight Back Friday, Real Food Wednesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Fat Tuesday, and Pennywise Platter Thursday, let's reclaim some of our power when it comes to food!


  1. Absolutely beautiful. You give me the courage to look outside of my comfort zone - which sadly includes the grocery store although I buy fruit and veggies there less and less. What an important post - we have become a nation/world of peoples afraid of the wrong things.

  2. Gotta tell you butter my love. I think we were separated at birth. I have been known to pick up a piece of bruised fruit from under a tree, pour water on it from my bottle, take out my trusty mini swiss army knife that I did GET in switzerland and cut out the worm holes and munch to my hearts content! I once read this inspiring story about a lady who had recovered from breast cancer and she decided to celebrate by walking across country with her pocket knife, a back pack with a sleeping bag, a bottle of water and nada else. She foraged the whole way! She was a wheatgrass junky so eating roadside grass was a meal for her, but i am sure she ate plenty of old berries and road apples..lol not, you know what i mean! As kids we would simply grab handfuls of mulberries off the tarmac not even caring about bugs of tar and throw them right in our mouths. we are all fine now! VERY cool article and thanks as always for being honest and showing us all what is possible if you just open up! :) Alex

  3. I might have to look up that lady, Alex, I think I'd love to read about her.

    The last time I checked under my pear tree, I was very excited that another cyclist came along, stopped, and seemed very interested. Eventually, I got to chat with her. Turns out she was over 70 (and strong as an ox, I shook her hand!). And as we were chatting, I offered her a pear, and she didn't hesitate to bite right into it. Made my heart so happy, a female cyclist who would eat sidewalk fruit!

  4. I think I'm going to start looking around...
    thanks for sharing!

  5. alwayshungry - Once you are aware of it, you'll be astonished by how much food is all around!

  6. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    If you have grain-free recipes please visit my Grain-Free Linky Carnival in support of my 28 day grain-free challenge! It will be open until November 2.


  7. Your foraged pear dishes look wonderful! I love finding a new source of fruit when we are out walking through the neighborhood! Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul Hop.


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