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Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 12:27 UK
Free fruit in abundance

Believe it or not, the city of Sheffield is brimming with unwanted organic home-grown fruit in summer and autumn.

One group in the city has taken up the challenge of picking the fruit throughout the city and re-distributing it.

Grow Sheffield is a group who celebrate the growing and sharing of local food.

One of their projects is called Abundance. It was the brainchild of local gardener Stephen Watts.

In June 2010, the group were awarded the Grassroots Project in the Observer Ethical Awards.

While wandering around the city, Stephen noticed the vast amount of fruit in people's gardens which - more often than not - is left to drop off and go rotten.

Fruit picking
An easy way to pick your plums is to shake the tree while holding a sheet underneath

This happens for a variety of reasons: either people don't know what to do with all their surplus fruit, they can't pick it, or because they don't even know it's there.

The Abundance project

In the Abundance project Stephen Watts, along with Anne-Marie Culhane who co-ordinaties the project, search the city for surplus fruit in summer and early autumn and then knock on people's doors to ask if they can pick the fruit from their trees.

They then re-distribute the fruit to people who need and want the fruit.

"Cycling around Nether Edge I've seen about 300 fruit trees just from my bike!" says Anne-Marie. "The whole city is full of fruit and a lot of it just gets wasted."

Fruit galore

So what sort of fruit have they been finding?

A fig
A fig from one of the trees on Broomspring Lane in Sheffield

"Mainly apples", says Stephen, "but also plums, almonds, damsons, unusual things like medlars..." and the list goes on. There's often a wealth of fruit - particularly in older gardens.

Apples, pears, cherries and plums are common but Sheffield has quite a few almond and fig trees too.

Elderberries and walnuts grow near Sheffield station, brambles spill out over walls in overgrown areas and waste-ground, and even apricots and peaches grow in some of Sheffield's warmer gardens.

Passionfruit, lemons and grapes can grow in England too; more often further south in warm and sheltered areas.

But almost any garden with favourable soil and sun will grow gooseberry and other berry bushes. And that's before even touching on the subject of vegetables!

Public response

Stephen says he's had a largely positive response from the people whose doors he's knocked on asking if he can pick their fruit. Joel Wild lives at a house with a heavily laden plum tree on Broomspring Lane.

"We do have a surplus of fruit and we can't pick it all. We've been giving bowls of plums to people but when Stephen came round, I thought why not contribute to something local? I thought it was a great idea."

People under a tree
Anne-Marie, Joel and Stephen

So how do the Broomspring Lane plums taste? "Incredibly sweet inside with a slightly sour skin," says Stephen. "Bliss is the best way to describe it!"

Organic AND free

There's also the financial saving. "Buying fresh plums in a shop, you often pay around £2 for 12 fruits" says Anne-Marie - "but this is food for free!"

And of course because they're from trees and bushes in people's gardens, most of the fruit is organic.

"If you're worried, it's worth giving them a wash before you eat them," says Anne-Marie, "but they do taste best straight off the tree!"

Anne-Marie and Stephen plan to hold 'free fruit' events. For more information about all the Grow Sheffield events and advice on how you can get involved, visit the website.



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