Earlier this week we covered Smuckers and their corporate social responsibility efforts. A glob of their jam or jelly once in a while is not a bad way to start the day. The truth is, however, is that nothing beats the homemade stuff. It used to also be a necessity—in the days before moving fruit across a continent or even from another hemisphere, preserves were the way to make fruit last during the winter. They are a guilty pleasure: no visit in Russia is complete without a cup of tea in which a spoonful of jam–made of berries from your host’s summer dacha–is plonked. Growing up, my grandmother made jam from whatever grew in her yard or what her Fresno neighbors passed on to her: persimmons and quinces often ended up in those jars. Batches of preserves are one way to deal with an abundance of fruit.
My grandmother did not forage, but foraging is a little secret that comes with living in much of California. No need to buy sage, rosemary, or often mint; they grow like weeds and chances are a neighbor has them. Citrus, especially lemons, often rot on the ground. Investigate sites like Fallen Fruit, and out west you’ll find maps locating bountiful grapefruit, figs, and avocados; back east surely renegade apple and stone fruit trees can feed an entire neighborhood. To that end, one resident in Berkeley, California is making fruit foraging especially sweet.
Sonya Dublin starting making jams as a hobby, thanks to a 75-year-old apricot tree that rained fruit in her backyard. After she moved to her neighborhood two years ago, she realized that fruit was just about everywhere, often rotting in yards and vacant lots. She then started to introduce herself to neighbors, often by slipping notes into their mailboxes with the request to make jam from their excess fruit. Quite a departure from the days when you’d show up on a neighbor’s house asking for an egg or a cup of sugar, dare we say!
Dublin launched 510 Fruits (named after the East Bay area code, from which she garners most of her fruit), her effort to deal with fruit that would otherwise rot on the ground. She spends a few hours a week foraging for fruit, then makes various jam combinations, and labels the jars with the streets from which she found the fruit. For the Top Chef crowd, Apricot-Basil-Ginger jam is currently available; blackberry, apricot, and Rainier cherry concoctions are currently available for the rest of us.
The jars sell for $7 to $10 each, but pricing is flexible, and she returns $1 for each jar returned to her. At this point Dublin only wants to cover the cost of supplies; she does not sell at farmers’ markets or retail outlets. You can contact her with questions or special requests here.