How to Glean Free Fruit and Vegetables – Plum Crazy

Yesterday as I was driving home, I passed by a sign that read FREE U-Pick Plums. I hurried home as fast as I could, hopped out of the car, ran into the house and yelled at The Girl…


Hurry, grab some baskets,

Let’s go before they are all gone!”

Turns out, the people who were giving away the plums had lived on their land for over 25 years. They had 3 plums trees and had a bumper crop this year {1 was 80 years old and the other 2 were 20+ years old}.  The trees were so heavy with fruit, the homeowner had to prop the heavy limbs with fence boards to prevent the tree limbs from breaking.

As they sat outside in their lawn chairs, people started pulling into the driveway to pick the free plums.  Even teenagers stopped by to pick.  It was awesome! They even had an extra fruit picker for people to use.

After giving the husband and wife a container of some of our own heirloom tomatoes and fresh eggs, we learned the reason they had placed the Free Plums sign alongside the road. Mr. Plum’s wife had just finished canning 86 jars of plum jam and declared her plum picking days were over for the year. So Mr. P grabbed a Sharpie and put the sign out alongside the road because he didn’t want the ripe fruit to go to waste.

Pretty cool if you ask me.

In the end, The Girl and I ended up with about 30 pounds of free plums and a jar of plum jam.  The owners encouraged us to take more, but we wanted to make sure other people driving by had the same opportunity to glean some free fruit as well.  So we went ahead and told them we would come back in a few days and pick whatever went unpicked for them.

Free Plums.  You sure can’t beat that!

Here are a few of my favorite gleaning tips –

    • Always ask first, even if there is a sign out saying FREE, U-Pick ________
    • Thank the people profusely for letting you glean the fruits of their labor
    • Try to offer something as a token of your appreciation
    • Don’t be greedy, leave plenty for others
    • If the owners encourage you to PLEASE, TAKE IT ALL, then go ahead and take as much as you know you’ll be able to use

Now, I just have to figure out what to do with all these plums.

Does anyone out there have any good plum recipes?

~ Mavis

Looking for a fruit picker basket?  Amazon has several to choose from right HERE.



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  1. says

    How cool! I picked a bunch of fresh farm peaches this weekend, but they weren’t free. Totally worth it though.
    I love hearing about people’s garden stories. I’m glad you asked about their story! So cool.

    I love plum jam! Wonder if you could also do plum applesauce? I ran across this recipe where the blogger makes her own applesauces from blueberry applesauce to peach applesauce. I think I might try the peach applesauce with some of my peaches.

    • Veronica says

      Plum applesauce is very good. So is strawberry applesauce, kiwi applesauce, pear applesauce, peach applesauce… We had an apple tree growing up and we varied the kind of applesauce we made by adding other fruits into it. Just make and can as you would normal applesauce.

  2. Elizabeth says

    Well, plum jam. I wonder if you could make an Asian type plum sauce? Am at work so my BALL BLUE BOOK is at home and can’t check. I would also clean, halve and pit and pack into quart freezer bags for cobbler (4 cups min.) For cobbler use I do not care if the fruit is frozen separate as will be cooked up when time to use. Big frozen chunk OK. Then I think I would slice and freeze on trays to keep separate, then pack in qt freezer bags (4 cup min) for plum crisp and for my grandmother’s plum kuchen recipe.

    I don’t have a dehydrator. When dried would they be like prunes?

  3. Mary Ann says

    So cool of them to do that and so cool of you to take them tomatoes and eggs! Imagine how wonderful the world would be if everyone were as generous? :)

  4. Sakura says

    I’m getting some Green Gage plums this week. Our italian plums are done for the season. We made plum jam, plum sauce, plum syrup (loosely set up jam) and plum pickles. My mom is japanese and she made some wonderful pickles with them.

  5. Sabrina says

    I think you should make the coffee cake you made last week with apples and blackberries and use plums instead. I have some myself and am thinking of making that recipe as my family loved the apple-blackberry one so much.

  6. Heather S. says

    I made a couple type of plum jams last year and we loved them. Plum/blueberry and plum/pluot were big hits in my house :) Otherwise, we just eat them, but that is a lot to eat!

  7. Beth says

    I found a recipe for plum chutney that I plan to try this year- I get free plums from my Dad’s orchards. I made a peach chutney that I jarred last week and it was really good. Both recipes are in the Ball’s Blue Book of Canning- let me know if you want either/both of them.

  8. Michelle says

    Yay for free fruit! It is my goal to get all my canning/jam fruit for free this year. So far I have found pears, plums, raspberries, apricots, cherries and apples. I made some plum jam and then juiced the rest to put in smooties. The juice is quite tart but it shouldn’t matter when mixed with other things. I also dried some.

  9. Robin Welch says

    Yes dehydrate some so great to mix into your own trail mix for the kids lunches after school sports snacks. Not sure what variety they are Santa Rosa’s? I’ve already commented that plum jam is awesome but Small Batch Preserving book has a yummy Asian plum sauce recipe as well. Made it last year great for all types of Asian inspired dishes.

  10. Robin Welch says

    One more comment do your kids think you are crazy when you tear into the house yelling “Free Plums?” Or are they so used to your antics now they just chock it up to another thing to discuss in a possible future therapy session like mine do?

  11. harper says

    When I used to live in a land that was plentiful of plums (and other fruits – sigh, those were the days) I would annually make:
    -Canned plums (simply slice in half, take out pit and can in a simple syrup – these are wonderful used in ThyHand’s southern cobbler)
    -Plum Kuchen/Cake
    -Plum Butter (easier than jam or jelly and makes a great, unique gift)

  12. Andrea D says

    plum ice cream. there is a recipe in the book by david lebovitz, ‘the perfect scoop’, if you have that book. or i am sure you could find a recipe online. my in-laws have plum trees so after jam & ice cream and eating them from the tree, i just chopped a bunch & froze them.

  13. deana says

    Seems like I need to move to your neighborhood to get all the great deals you have been getting on the free fruits, and the veggies and fruits you have been getting from your produce stand. But wonder if I can convince the family to move I doubt it sense Melissa my youngest has this year and next year she is a senior, and we would have an animal caravan to move as well. Horses, chickens, ducks, geese, peacocks, pheasants, dogs, cat and who else knows is out there lol.

    I am going to start me a folder on the different Canning tips, recipes ect I learn from your blog to have ready for when I am ready to start canning full time next year. I have not had the money to really be able to boy a lot of jars in the different sizes to get started in full blown canning. And I would like a Canner as well so I can do meats along with my bath water canning.

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