LETHBRIDGE - It's coming up to that time of year when local store supplies of pectin, vinegar and sugar, jars and canners are raided by home cooks wanting to preserve their summer bounties of vegetables, meats and fruit.
If you're one of those people who love to do that, if you are willing and able to put some time and effort in, there are literally thousands of fruit trees in the City of Lethbridge with fruit that will soon be ripe for the picking.
Parks Manager Dave Ellis says the initiative began years ago with crab apple trees but has since expanded to several other kinds of fruit trees, because hybrids have been developed that can now withstand the heat and cold extremes.
"Being in southern Alberta, we don't have a huge selection of trees we can plant, so fruit trees help us diversify the urban forest. But two, there's quite a movement right now on urban agriculture and food production. So, planting fruit trees in public places and making them available for public harvest, kind of goes along with that trend."
And he says each year, the city is trying to plant more of them. Some will take several years, before they bear fruit, however hundreds are ready for harvest generally in from late July to mid-August - depending on weather conditions.
The city plants cherry, apple, pear and crab apple trees around the city, and things like rhubarb and berry bushes on some school properties. All of them are available for the public to harvest.
However, Ellis wants to be clear that the fruit trees and plants in the River Valley are for animals living there and should be left that way.
"As far as our urban parks or our developed parks up in the neighborhoods, absolutely, they can be used by whomever. Maybe it's a race to get there before the birds do, but for sure, those are available for the public to pick."
He adds that none of the trees are sprayed or treated with any chemicals, including insecticides that may be harmful for someone who wants to pick and eat the fruit or berries.
As for plans to expand or diversify what types of edible plants go into the gardens, Ellis says it's also something the city is looking at in the future.
"We are keeping our eyes on what's available and what will grow well here now...not directly as a means of food production, but for landscaping and the benefit is that they're available for harvest as well."
It's a slow process however. When a fruit tree or bush is planted, it can take several years for it to become available for harvest.
And in the future, the city may also look at creating a community organization to even coordinate harvests each year.
For anyone wondering where the trees are located, the city has created a very basic map showing where the trees are located.
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