The Responsibility of Free Fruit

Kitchen Diary: Emily in Los Angeles

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It's still citrus season here in California and as I have developed a reputation as the person to call when you have too much backyard fruit, friends and family have been blessing my doorstep with mountains of pomelos, lemons, Meyer lemons, and oranges. Free produce is fun, yes, but also a responsibility.

When someone offers you an armload of produce, it can be exciting, inspiring, and daunting. Exciting because, well, free food! Even better if it's freshly picked, fragrant with the smell of the season (citrus is particularly heavenly in this realm). I would rarely buy so much fruit myself, so when it's a lavish amount — like the dozen GIANT pomelos I received or the three FULL bags of lemons — it can be terrifically inspiring. Without having to worry about my grocery budget or practical dinner plans, I love the opportunity to be creative and experiment with cooking and food preservation techniques. In the past week this has meant the beginnings of several bitters, shrubs, and booze (oh my!).

But with every great fruit comes great responsibility... Number one: the responsibility to not be greedy! On occasion I have taken pounds upon pounds of fruit, gotten overwhelmed or distracted, and then felt utterly ashamed when it rotted away in a corner. After that happened a few times, I decided that before accepting free fruit, I must honestly assess whether I have the time and energy to work with it. If not, I immediately give some of it away to people who would actually appreciate it, or I say no upfront. This week I reluctantly refused two more offers of beautiful citrus, but I figured it was far better to miss out than to potentially waste food.

(For people who have a whole lot of fruit, I suggest contacting an organization like Food Forward, which picks and distributes fruit to help fight hunger.)

I also feel a responsibility to continue the cycle of giving. Whenever I use free fruit to make marmalade, liqueur, or some other treat, I give at least half of it away to friends, family, and neighbors. In this way many people get to benefit from the bounty. Now, who wants some pomelo-cello?

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Kitchen Diary: Emily in Los Angeles

(Image credits: Emily Ho)