Barnet Community Harvesters has been established by Daniella Levene. The group’s first ever pick was of surplus apples in the garden of a house in Pepys Crescent, High Barnet.
Householders with apples and other fruit are being asked to notify Community Harvesters so that volunteers can help with picking and collecting produce that would otherwise go to waste.
The apples from the Pepys Crescent home of Katerina Pedrithes were delivered to the Chipping Barnet food bank. Much of the collected fruit will go to Food Bank Aid, an organisation that distributes donated food and produce to foodbanks in the Borough of Barnet and across north London.
Daniella, who has the equivalent of an A-level qualification in orchard management, is hoping her newly established network of volunteers, will undertake a wide range of projects.
One immediate objective in time for this autumn is to map the locations of apple, walnut and other fruit and nut trees that are on public land where the produce can be picked either by volunteers or members of the public.
“Barnet has lots of open spaces and there is an abundance of produce that usually goes to waste.
“Since the Covid-19 lockdown we are seeing a real resurgence in community action and there is great support for the idea of diverting surplus fruit and vegetables to food banks and the needy.”
A longer-term ambition of Daniella is to identify the various apple varieties on trees in gardens and public spaces across the borough and research the apple heritage of the locality.
“There are something like 30 varieties grown in gardens, allotments and so on and the challenge we have is to identify them, and then see if we can locate rare cultivars.
“We want gardeners and residents to be on the look-out for long forgotten apple varieties that we know were once popular in North London and Hertfordshire.
“One variety we are searching for is an apple cultivar known as the Finchley Pippin, but we fear we might be too late.
“Another is known as the Voyager, a Hertfordshire raised apple that was developed by A.R. King of Barnet. We think there might be a Voyager on one of the allotments in Barnet. But who was A.R. King?”
Daniella’s first task in the Pepys Crescent garden was to help Katerina Pedrithes pick apples from a tree laden with fruit. Katerina had alerted Community Harvesters to the excess fruit in her garden and was delighted to help.
“Unfortunately, the birds and then the wasps get most of the apples. They tend to roll down the drive into the pavement, so I only too pleased to see them put to good use.”
Daniella thought Katerina’s apple tasted fresh and juicy, a little like a Cox. Initially she was stumped in naming the variety but after further inspection identified them as James Grieve which are found in many gardens.
“Apple identification is a dark art because all told there are 6,000 or so varieties. There are lots of things to look for. Katerina’s apples have stripes, the under colour is green and the over colour is red. Then you look at the stalk and the eye which was once the blossom.
“It would be wonderful if we could produce a map of all the local apple trees on public land, and who knows we might find some of those long-lost varieties like Finchley Pippin and Voyager.”
Next step for Daniella and her team of pickers was to help pick surplus apples and fruit at Brook Farm allotments.
To get involved by volunteering to pick or donate surplus fruit contact: