“Grounder” apples are sorted by volunteers, in preparation for being converted into Gleaners Gold cider.

LEPS Community Harvest volunteers teamed with the Fraser Valley Cider Co. to add value to apples

By Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times

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When the community harvesters are done picking, there are always some apples that are less than perfect.

Last fall, the Langley Environmental Partners Society found a way to salvage those apples, and this weekend, they’re going to toast the fruits of their labour… with the fruits of their labour.

LEPS partnered with Fraser Valley Cider Co. to make cider entirely of apples harvested from Langley fruit trees through the Community Harvest Program.

The result is about 750 litres of Gleaners Gold, which volunteers recently put into about 1,000 bottles that will be the centre of a launch event at the cidery on Sunday afternoon, April 28, from 4 to 6 p.m.

The event will be catered by Well Seasoned, with a selection of appetizers made from locally sourced farm fresh ingredients with an apple theme.

LEPS executive director Nichole Marples said apples were going to waste each year, because they weren’t “aesthetically pleasing for eating out of your hand.”

Last year, volunteer pickers were encouraged to pick apples that didn’t look perfect, and in addition to 3,000 pounds of “good” fruit that went to the usual food banks and other community service groups, they picked about 1,800 pounds of “‘Grounders,’ with pock marks or misshapen,” said Marples, “nothing really wrong with them, none were rotten, just not as aesthetically pleasing.”

LEPS approached Fraser Valley Cider Co. with a plan to turn them into cider, “and they liked the idea.”

The cidery donated pressing and bottling time, and helped LEPS volunteers with the process. And LEPS also gets a cut from every bottle sold: “all non-overhead receipts, less cost of bottles, taxes, etc.,” said a “thrilled” Marples.

And the cider? “I certainly have tried it,” Marples enthused. “I got a sip at the bottling, and it’s very, very lovely.”

Langley Advance Times reporter Matthew Claxton admitted, “I might try it, too, yeah.”

He was amused and pleased to learn that LEPS had branched out into the cider business: “Pretty interesting that they’ve found a way to use those apples. It’s great to see the cider thing, great that they’re doing something more with it.”

The Langley Community Harvest was originally Claxton’s brainchild, a Pay It Forward project initiated through the newspaper and run “off the side of our newsroom desks” for about two years, until it got unmanageable, and LEPS “gladly” took it over, Marples redcalled.

“It’s amazing how much can come off a tree,” said Claxton. “We did the picking, too, that first year” before a cohort of volunteers was rounded up.

“We got boxes and boxes of plums off a single tree. I remember going out and filling my Subaru, front to back, even the front seat,” he said.

When LEPS took it over, he said, “they turned it into something much more than we ever could.”

LEPS now has a list of about 60 volunteers to draw from, and about the same number of homeowners with trees for picking each year.

“A lot of people have trees too large to use all the fruit,” Marples said, adding an example: “One year we got 600 pounds of plums off a single tree.”

Plums, apples, and pears make up most of the fruit picked by the volunteers.

Fruit is divided one-third each between the homeowner, volunteer pickers, and food bank or community service organizations.

“But often, the homeowner already has all they need before volunteers arrive,” said Marples, “and sometimes volunteers don’t always want their full share.”

From the start, the goal of the Community Harvest Program was to save backyard fruit that was going to waste because homeowners couldn’t use all that their trees were producing.

And now, with the Gleaners Gold cider being made from apples that would have been discarded before, the community gets an even bigger share than ever.

READ MORE about the Langley Community Harvest program

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“Grounder” apples are sorted by volunteers, and bad spots removed, or “pruned”, before being pressed for cider.

Apples are mulched before pressing.

Mulched apples are ready for the apple press.

Juices are pressed from the apples.

Bottled cider made from LEPS’s Community Harvest apples will be at the centre of a launch celebration this weekend.

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