Fruit picking groups in Brent, north west London, have had a bumper harvest this year, saving almost three tons of fruit that would otherwise go to waste in local gardens. Two Transition groups (Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesters and Willesden Fruit Harvesters) and Mapesbury Residents’ Association (MapRA) have between them picked a record amount of fruit, which has been shared with local schools and community groups.
Around 130 volunteers have helped pick this year’s crop of apples, pears, plums, grapes, quince, cherries, medlar, loquat, passion fruit and figs. The fruit is given to local schools and charities including Kids Company, the MS Society, homeless organisations and food banks, and has been made into delicious juice, chutney and jam.
Kilburn resident Janey McAllester, who co-ordinates picks for “Kensal to Kilburn Fruit Harvesters” says, “The sunny summer provided a glut of apples and pears and neighbours came together to shake fruit off the trees. We’ve even made wine and cider for the first time ever.”
Willesden resident Vendy Hudcova, who co-ordinates picks for “Willesden Fruit Harvesters” says, “It was a great season. Although we are a small group, we picked just over half a ton of fruit.
“It is incredible how it all comes together. From contacting tree owners to getting together with volunteers to pick, and giving the fruit to those who need it most. Fruit harvesting is a great way to get involved with the local community, and to get to know our neighbours.
“I’ve learnt how to make chutney and met some amazing people, who have became friends, sharing a passion for the project. We would love more people to get involved, and aim to double our picks next year, distributing even more fruit to the community.”
The project has made a big difference to local residents in need. Stephen Chamberlain from Brent Food Bank at Christ Church in Willesden Lane, says, “At Christ Church we support Food Bank service users with a cooked meal. Thanks to the generous supply of local organic fruit we have been able to pass on fresh fruit bags and many, many freshly baked apple and pear crumbles. The windfalls and picked fruits have indeed been a Godsend to Brent Food Bank clients.”
Mapesbury resident Gerry Weston, who co-ordinates picks for MapRA , says, “We have picked 750 kg of plums, apples and pears in the Mapesbury area. Some twenty members of the harvesting group have been involved this year. The produce has gone to Ashford Place, the Pakistani Community Centre and local schools.”
Local Fruit Harvesters was set up in 2009 by Brent residents Michael Stuart and Viv Stein, and has become part of the borough’s two Transition Town groups – Kensal to Kilburn and Willesden, and taken on by MapRA in Mapesbury. The Willesden group pick fruit in Willesden and Dollis Hill. The award-winning project is part of the national Abundance Network. The fruit gets shared out between garden owners, volunteer pickers and distributed to local schools, charities, restaurants and shops on a non-profit basis. The projects have also trained over fifty people to prune fruit trees.