Gleaning immediately invoked in my mind the story of Naomi and Ruth of the Book of Ruth. Aside from the fact that Ruth, a widow, chose to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi and care for her rather than return to her own family, what always struck me about her story was the lengths she went in order not to let her mother-in-law go hungry. At one point in their epic journey, Ruth goes into the fields to glean for food.
Gleaning is an ancient practice of hand-collecting crops from fields after they have been harvested. In some cultures and societies, gleaning is promoted as a form of social welfare by laws (both religious and legal) requiring farmers to leave a portion of their field unharvested and leaving it for the poor to glean.
For instance, the passages of laws from the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy instruct farmers not to harvest everything, but to leave it to the poor and for strangers: "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien." Leviticus 19:9-10 (NIV version) (see also Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19).
In modern times, societies have either promoted gleaning or crushed the practice all together. In the former Soviet Union, the "Seven Eighths" law, or Law of Spikilets was passed on 7/8/1932 and permitted authorities to arrest peasants and children caught gleaning the leftover grains ("spikilets") in the fields as a crime against state grain production. The French on the other hand, maintain an extensive system of laws that protect the practice of gleaning, as explored in Agnes Varda’s film.
Gleaning is certainly practiced in the modern era, not only by urban homeless in dumpsters, but even my family. As a child, we stalked the public lands of the southwest often for a crop of pine nuts - pulling out our blankets and combing the forest floor for the seeds. You can see these little treasures in my very first blog on Pinon
While I cannot lay claim to a field or forest nearby for gleaning, gleaning in my town is all about making and following your very own feral fruit map. My boyfriend has this habit of riding his bike around the neighborhood in search of fruit trees such as pears, apples, and alley grape vines and bringing home a grocery bag full of his finds. While I discount this practice as a form of trespass, he always defends himself saying that the fruit just falls off and goes to waste otherwise. Confronted now with the idea of modern/urban gleaning, I have to say he is right.
So with this thought, I bring you the feral fruit harvest of my neighborhood. In one evening, I managed to find pears, apples, and concord grapes. I also decided to follow the feral fruit map method
. I found this link
about an artist's take on gleaning and the Fallen Fruit movement while researching gleaning and thought it was apt for this blog and a great way to bring some legitimacy to the feral fruit gatherers of your neighborhood in the hope that you join, rather than scorn them.
I also bring you a simple recipe for concord grape juice. While it is very late in the season, some grape vines are still producing the last of their fruit before a hard frost. If you are lucky, you too can enjoy some homemade juice.
You will need:
- 2 pounds of concord grapes
- 3 cups of water
- sugar to taste
Step one: Pick through the grapes and separate the vines, twigs, and leaves out. Wash the grapes thoroughly. Place them in a large stock pot and crush them with your hands. Add the water.
Step Two: Cook the grapes over medium-low heat. You do not want the grapes to boil, rather, you want them to simmer slightly. Cook the grapes for about 30 minutes once they begin to simmer. Add sugar to taste (about 1/2 cup does the trick, and use evaporated cane juice if you can find it). You can also choose to add no sugar if your grapes are overripe.
Step Three: After the mixture cools, strain it through a large sieve or Chinoise (china cap stainless steel strainer). Pour the juice into a container for storage in the refrigerator.
Note: the picture of "The Gleaners" is an oil on canvas from 1857 by Jean-François Millet.