Foodival is Transition Town Tooting's annual food festival, celebrating everything that's good about locally grown food. Foodival aims to show how it's possible to grow local, eat local, be sustainable and have fun while doing it!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lessons learnt in damson picking

by Richard Couldrey

A week ago, my two sons Dominic and Benji and I went damson picking at a wonderful house on Longley Road in Tooting (thank you!). We went on behalf of the Foodival. I thought it was brilliant, Dominic thought it was a bit boring. The best bit was collecting the damsons!

There were four trees, all moderately sized, but covered in fruits. We set a tarp down on the ground and those brave enough went under. Then, to the sounds of Peter Gabriel's "Shaking the Tree"... we shook! Damson rain fell, thudded and surprised those underneath. The great thing was only the ripe damsons fell off, leaving plenty more for collection another day.

HOWEVER... on return home, all kinds of kids activities beckoned and the three carrier bags of damsons were put in the coolest cupboard I could find (fridge full, stinking hot day) for processing the next day.

The next day came, and I completely forgot about the damsons... meaning that they started breaking down in the bags, the ones at the bottom squashed by those on top. I've ended up with 2 large tupperwares - about 1/3 of the original haul, through a combination of ignorance and forgetfulness.

So, if you're going fruit picking, here's the lessons learnt:
  • When picking, take a tarp and shake that tree!
  • Only pick the firm fallers, anything soft will break down quickly and rot the other fruits
  • Carry the damsons in small quantities. Don't load too many on top of each other as they get squashed and, you guessed it, start to break down
  • Be prepared to immediately process them at home, which involves giving them a good wash (I used the bath) and freezing them with the pips in, or de-pip and freeze to be more space efficient.
Alternatively - go ahead and make your pies!

If you have an abundance of fruit, you can of course donate some to Foodival by dropping off produce on Saturday 13th September during the BATCA Fun Day or at Mushkil Aasaan between pm and 5pm.  Then come back on Sunday 14th September to Samaj Hall from midday to sample some of what's been made, while the wonderful fanSHEN Theatre entertain you with a great performance of The Apple Cart (more on that next week!)

Or check out Abundance Wimbledon, who help to pick fruit and deliver it to people and organisations who can use it.  Their site has some great recipes and they're having a Fruit Day the week after Foodival!

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