Friday, 5 October 2007


My first memories of apples start with childhood memories of the valley coming to life in spring with apple blossoms. Apple blossom time would signal the end of another winter, and offer the promise of a new growing season. The official arrival of Spring. The sweet soft scent of the blossoms would fill the air and pinkish white blossoms for as far as the eye could see. The community gathered together each spring for the Apple Blossom Festival, a celebration of community, life, traditions and heritage. We would line the road for the Apple Blossom Parade and watch the floats and festivities dance by. There was such pride the year my cousin, Crystal, was the Apple Blossom Princess!

The Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia is a long way from Kazakhstan, Central Asia, where botanists believe the apple has its origins. Existing as a wild fruit since prehistoric times, it was the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians that began cultivating the apple more than 3,000 years ago. Being in the heart of the silk route, as nomads and traders passed through the Kazakhstan, they would gather apples, and thus the humble, yet dynamic apple started its journey around the world. With 7,500 varieties, of which 50 are grown commercially, apples are now grown in every corner of the world. From Japan, Madagascar, South Africa, New Zealand, Russia, China, England, France to Canada & the U.S.

The Spartan is a tasty British Columbian success story. A member of the extensive McIntosh family, the Spartan is a cross between the McIntosh and Newton Pippin that was developed at the Summerland Research Station in 1936. With a crisp and bright flavour, Spartans keep well and mellow and gain flavour in storage.

Apples have a special appeal, not just commercially, but also for community and residential planting. The apple tree has a long life, is easy to grow and thrives in just about any climate. It offers shade for warm summer days, a home for birds, flowers for bees, and what great fun to climb. But what to do with all those apples?! We all love home made apple sauce, apple pie, apple crumble, apple chips… What happens when the tree owner doesn’t have the time, ability, or resources to pick their trees? Often, you will find the yard scattered with wasted fruit.

Another BC success story is The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project. The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is a community-based, registered not-for-profit society that works to build community and strengthen food security using local fruit. The idea is simple: to connect people who have excess fruit from their backyard trees with volunteers who have the time and energy to harvest it. The harvested fruit is donated to community organizations such as neighbourhood houses, community kitchens, and friendship centres. Educational canning workshops enhance food preservation skills by training diverse members of our communities to safely preserve fruit using simple, up-to-date canning processes. The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project enables communities to connect through the growth, harvest, distribution, and celebration of locally-grown, backyard fruit. In doing so, it fosters community engagement, alternatives to market-based agriculture, and strong food security networks in Vancouver.

Started in 1999 by a group of Vancouver residents coming together to address their common concern for the large amount of fruit going to waste in their neighbourhoods, The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project now works with over 50 tree owners and 100 volunteers to harvest over 4,000 lbs of fruit annually from backyards throughout Vancouver.

Just as in my childhood, the mighty apple is part of the celebration of community and the change of seasons.

Paula Luther
The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project

Published in Slow Food Vancouver Newsletter October 2004

note - the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is on hiatus for the 2007 season

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