What to do with excess fruit from trees and bushes around Calgary

An annual conundrum faced by many Calgarians is popping up once again — what to do with the abundance of fruit ripening on trees and bushes in backyards and parks across the city.

With a range of varieties, apple trees are popular in Calgary’s climate, and JP Gerritsen — supervisor of culinary programs at ATCO’s Blue Flame Kitchen — spoke to The Homestretch, offering tips on turning them into delicious treats which can be enjoyed anytime of year.

“Pick an apple and taste it,” he said. “Is it sweet? Sour? Tart? Mealy? Crunchy? There’s all different variables, then depending on what your apple tastes like that will judge what you can do with it.”

Soft, mealy apples are better for sauce, while crisper apples are useful in pies and crisps, he said.

If it’s on the ground, leave it there

“You’re not sure how long it’s been there so I would say unless you watch it fall and pick it up right away, if it’s on the ground, generally there’s probably more on the tree. The ones on the ground you can compost.”

You should also use them quickly.

“Store bought apples don’t age, or continue to ripen as fast as backyard apples. Backyard apples tend to continue to ripen quickly because they’re not in a controlled environment. So you want to use them or process them as close to picking, or soon thereafter as possible.”


Apple trees are popular in Calgary’s climate. (John Robertson/CBC)

Freeze the excess

“Without having to do too much work, depending on the skin, if you want to peel it or not, that’s up to you, but cut it in half, cut the seeds out of it and slice it and put it in a bag,” said Gerritsen.

“I like to put mine in Ziploc bags with a little bit of cinnamon and brown sugar, toss it up then it’s ready to go so if I want to do a pie or crisp later in the year… you dump them into a pie shell or baking dish, throw a topping on and you’re good to go.”

Jams and jellies

“Crab apples are a big one people make into jams and jellies because they’re small and it’s a lot of work,” said Gerritsen. “So you can just throw crab apples, or a small apple into a pot, add a little bit of moisture and cook them down over heat. They’ll start to steam, give them a good mashing and cook them out a little bit.

“Taste to see where you’re at, then the liquid that comes out of that you can run through either cheesecloth or a sieve. Some apples, the pectin that naturally occurs varies, so sometimes they’ll set on their own and sometimes you’ll need to add some pectin, or syrup.”

Choke cherries

Choke cherries are coming into season around Calgary. (Submitted/Malcolm Saunders)

Calgarians out walking lately may have noticed small black and red berries coming into bloom, known as choke cherries.

Malcolm Saunders — an avid forager in Calgary and owner of the Light Cellar, a natural foods store which also offers classes on how to forage, ferment and preserve food — offered some suggestion to the Calgary Eyeopener on what to do with them.


“You basically put them in a pot, cover them with water and boil it for a couple of hours,” said Saunders. “Then you mash that up and pass it through a strainer. So you leave all the seeds behind but you get the juice and you can turn that into wine, or a jam or a jelly.”

Choke cherries Calgary

Choke cherries can be turned into juice or dehydrated and turned into fruit leather. (Submitted/Malcolm Saunders)


“I blend them up and spread that onto a tray and you can dehydrate that in a dehydrator or an oven for a fruit leather. When it’s dried and cooked it loses that bitter flavour,” said Saunders. “And the seeds themselves, when you cook them, you remove that poisonous aspect to them and you get this really dark, cherry Amaretto flavour.”

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