Monday, September 20, 2010

I Go Gleaning! September 20th 1st Annual National Gleaning Day!

   Ok, just for starters here, the last thing I thought I'd ever turn into would be a gleaner. I grew up in San Francisco, City of Eaters, playing basketball in the street dodging cars. I lived in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Venice to be precise, not areas known for their abundant gleaning. I work as a screenwriter, also not a profession known to be populated with gleaner types, yet here I am. Gleaning.
   Not exactly like the famous Millet painting, but you get the idea. Time was that gleaning was an important part of daily life. In agricultural societies it was an early form of the social safety-net.
When farmers had harvested their crops, there was always something left behind, usually because it could not be gotten economically or efficiently.
   However way back in the day, a certain portion of the crop was deliberately left behind for the poor, for widows and children. In fact, not to get all scholarly here, it was commanded by The Holiness Code and both the Bible and the Qu'ran. The practice stuck and for hundreds of years a portion was left for the less fortunate. This was called the right of usufruct which allowed people to come in and take the leavings as long as no property was damaged or destroyed in doing so. Gradually those rights went  away as modern times arrived. Everything got real "organized," big machinery rolled in and bye bye gleaners. Until now.
   Gleaning is making a comeback. Big time. With hard times comes the awareness that waste is wrong.
   Living in Sonoma, there is food all around me. Fruit trees are in peoples' yards or grow by the side of the road untended. Berry bushes sprawl everywhere, cactus fruit and cactus paddles, olive and walnut trees, not to mention the figs and wild plum.  I could go on... Most of this stuff just sits there and falls to the ground uneaten, either because people don't know they can eat it or they don't know how to store or use it.
   It's not just the country either. When we lived in Santa Monica we had olive trees, lemon trees, avocado, guava and cactus. The neighbors had loquats. In fact there are a lot of loquat trees in Los Angeles just growing wild. A friend used to bring me bags of loquats that grew outside her apartment house and I'd give her back jars of loquat chutney. There are edible  things all around us, even in the city, and people are starting to take notice.
   This is where the gleaning comes in. Here in Sonoma my friend Kristen Vigurie who owns Junipero & Co saw all the food around us just going to waste and decided to start a gleaning movement right here in Sonoma.
The idea is to get produce that people either can't use or are willing to donate after the harvest, translate (can) those goods into things to eat, and either donate them to the local foodbank or sell them and donate the money.  I went on my first glean this last week , the subject was apples.
  Alan and I showed up at Kirstens shop bright and early and drove out to a nearby property where the owner had offered us his apple trees.
   Jim Kent was out in his vineyard tending his grapes.
We'd brought our boxes and bags, he reminded us to leave a few for him and his family and then had us get to it.
  We picked and picked, filling our sacks and boxes.
Here I am doing an Issac Newton impression. Whoops.
 Finally we'd taken all we could deal with. Here's one box.
  We thanked Jim, and headed on our way to turn our freshly picked treasures
  Gleaning was fun, and we'll be sharing the wealth that otherwise would go to waste.  There is probably a gleaning movement near you, whether you live in the country or an urban setting.
 Marin Organic  which is in the next county down from Sonoma, has a lot of great information and has declared September 20th as the First Annual National Gleaning Day.
   If you'd like to find out more about getting involved in this community movement and learn where Gleaning is going on in your area, or maybe start  a gleaning group of your own, visit the website
   Meanwhile I've turned my apples into Kashmiri Apple Chutney and I'll be posting the recipe soon.
    Vote For Me:
      As you may know, I'm entered in the Project Foodbuzz Foodblogger of The Year Competition. 
     So what exactly is this Project Foodbuzz Contest and why do I want it so badly???
     Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured    Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a  shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on for one year

     Voting is now open and I'm trying to make the cut to the next round. Please register to vote on (it's free!) or if you're already a member, do me a solid, give me a vote and help me get to the next round.
Here's my entry for Challenge #1 Where I'm supposed to tell you a bit about what makes me tick.
Project Foodbuzz Challenge #1 Cooking My Way To India
   Thanks so much to everyone for all your encouragement and support! 


  1. Never heard of gleaning but I love it! I hate when good food goes to waste!

  2. What a great post, the pictures and color of those fruits are gorgeous and you certainly look like you are having a grand time admiring them. Good luck Kathy you have been an inspiration time and time again with your creativity!

  3. I love this post--when we first moved to Boulder we had a similar experience of just watching beautiful fruit fall to the ground! We started gleaning (I call it foraging...) and haven't stopped. Fun.

  4. @angelaFRS,
    yes, I've always felt that way...once you glean/forage you 'll never go back.

  5. This is beyond fantastic and will definitely check it out...But first I must vote :) Best of luck to you with the future challenges :)

  6. this is amazing. i would love to see this started in many of the farms in Florida. thank you for this post!

    p.s. you also have my vote!

  7. Love all this community stuff that you are doing.



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