I know I was really mean yesterday leaving you all drooling over that apple caramel cupcake like that with no further commentary. I’ve got the goods all ready to roll tonight though because I went through my eleventy billion photos (more like 95 but close enough), chose my favourite ones to show you all yesterday and today, and got all my apple literature materials prepared! You know I can’t leave an event without buttons, pamphlets, postcards, and promo materials – it would be a travesty otherwise!
Yesterday’s City Cider event at Spadina Museum: Historic House & Gardens was unlike any food and/or community event I had ever been to. It wasn’t meant to be flashy or expensive or inaccessible to the general public. On the contrary, people of all ages were having the best time ever taking photos of the orchards and gardens, sipping fresh warm apple cider straight out of the press, watching apples being turned into homemade apple butter in a historic 1920s kitchen, noshing on decadent and delicious apple caramel cupcakes from a cupcake truck, and enjoying a little dry apple cider on the side (read: alcohol!). Babies and little ones were frollicking across the grass, people were running back and forth grabbing little glasses of cider because they were just that yummy, and enjoying everything there was to enjoy about the apple harvest and upcoming fall season.
More importantly though, we were all there to support and engage in a larger-than-life organization, inititative, and cause: Not Far From the Tree, our beloved organization founded and located right here in Toronto, responsible for this amazing festival with the help and support of local businesses such as Pommies Dry Cider and The Big Carrot on te Danforth.
To put Not Far From the Tree and what they do into perspective, consider this: how many of us throw food out on a weekly basis, specifically fruits and vegetables and perishables? It’s okay, raise your hand – I’m raising mine. How many of us do so because we 1) bought more than we thought we could eat and ended up wasting it because it spoiled, 2) didn’t take care of our food and inadvertently speeded up the spoiling process, or 3) just didn’t get around to eating it or using it up in time? Or maybe a combination of all of the above? It happens. We’re not heartless people (at least I hope not!); we’re just careless sometimes.
Now, envision what happens when this waste is multiplied hundreds and thousands of times. Think of all the pounds of food waste and all the good it could do if wasn’t wasted. The mouths it could feed, the good it could do for the environment. Now think of what could happen if we had a way of cutting this waste down, even just a fraction by putting our food to better use and sharing our bounty or overabudance with others. Not Far From the Tree does just that. As an organization dedicated to caring for the well-being of the environment and community, their goal is to maintain one very specific part of our food chain and ecosystem the best they can and distributing its wares: fruit trees!
In a nutshell, Not Far From the Tree and its staff and volunteers pick fruit from registered fruit trees (the trees of property owners, homeowners, etc.) that have become too much for the owners to maintain whether it’s because the owner cannot keep up with the growth of fruit, can’t use it up fast enough before it spoils, and so on. 1/3 of it goes to the owner, 1/3 of it goes to the volunteers, and 1/3 of it is transported and donated to local food shelters and banks, and community kitchens among others. The result? Win-win for everyone. Less food is wasted, fresh fruit is brought to organizations and neighbourhoods that desperately need it, weatlth is shared, friendships and relationships are forged and created, and communities are brought together by a passion for food, a desire to help, and a love for community-building.
And that was the feeling I felt spreading straight through to my fingertips as I walked the beautiful grounds and saw all the wonderful activities surrounding me yesterday. Everyone was having such a great time in and outside the historic museum and house and just engaging, learning, and exploring. I got to see apple cider made from scratch, from the adorable apples plucked straight from the trees being chopped, to the chopped apples being fed into the grinder, to the apple mush being collected and brought to the cider press, to the sweet apple cider being poured into glasses for all of us to enjoy for $2 a pop. There were food trucks on site, dried apple samples being handed out courtesy of The Big Carrot, a honey bee booth, and orchard tours throughout the afternoon.
Some of my favourite activities from yesterday included the fresh apple butter demo inside the Spadina Museum and House in the kitchen and the dry apple cider tasting in library! I know, can you believe it?! ME. Drinking ALCOHOL. Willingly. What can I say, it looked delicious and refreshing! Pommies Dry Cider was on hand with lots of sampling and tasting and I couldn’t pass up the chance to try some. Made entirely from fermented apples from Caledon, Ontario with 5% alcohol, Pommies Dry Cider is a sparklin and refreshing alternative to non-alcoholic cider and juice. Trust me, if a non-drinker like myself says it’s awesome, take my word for it. It’s delicious. It’s exactly the type of beverage you envision yourself sipping out in wine country with the sun setting in the background on a breezy midsummer’s night. The flavour is so crisp and clean and clear with just that hint of a bite from the alcohol. I think I have finally found something I enjoying “drinking”! It took awhile, but I got here!
City Cider made me so exciting for apple picking and it really got me thinking about Not Far From the Tree and getting involved as a volunteer. I know, I know, like I don’t have enough on my plate! I feel so excited about it though so I might just give it a go! For the past 5 years, the organization has continued to grow with more and more volunteers and more and more fruit being picked. Even though there is still so much to do and so much more to pick, other cities have caught on and joined the movement and that can only mean more good things to come in the future. This was City Cider’s 2nd annual festival and after yesterday, I’m already looking forward to next year’s.
Spadina Museum: Historic House & Gardens is located at 285 Spadina Rd. across the street from Casa Loma.