Oak Bay cider-makers will pick your tree clean

Greater Victoria Cider Enthusiasts Association scours the south Island in search of apples that otherwise go to waste

Oak Bay resident Kyle Hunker

Rob Reynolds isn’t above stopping the car and knocking on a stranger’s door for a tree laden with apples.

“We find trees all over the city. There are lot in Oak Bay. There’s a lot of what used to be orchards,” said Reynolds, who grew up in Oak Bay and still works in the community.

He’s part of the Greater Victoria Cider Enthusiasts Association, which boasts a Facebook membership of more than 90, that scours the south Island in search of apples that would otherwise go to waste.

“There are some gems in Oak Bay for sure,” said Kyle Hunker, an Oak Bay resident who sources his own trees as well as those in the community.

The enthusiasts formed three years ago, after meeting each other through the local home brewing community. A group from BrewVic sought to explore beyond beer into ciders and wines, while a contingent of expat Brits was also desperate to find a dry, less sweet cider than the staple readily available.

“I fell in love with cider when I lived in the West Country in the UK,” said Kalynka Cherkosh of Esquimalt.

Here, she found she couldn’t afford the good stuff on a regular basis and decided to take control of the situation.

“I wanted to make a nice meaty, drier farmhouse cider,” she said. Cherkosh made a few hundred litres that year and held a wassail in late winter to celebrate – a tradition they continue three years in.

“It just seems every year we’ve organized a bit more,” she said.

Now they hand out the leaflets, and seek out abandoned trees.

A common theme for the older generation is a hatred of waste.

Where an older homeowner used to pick and preserve each fall, they simply don’t have the ability anymore and want to see it put to use. They’ll pick the apples, or in some cases pears, and leave as much as the household can utilize, Reynolds said.

“We’re trying to turn fallen fruit into caught fruit,” Cherkosh said.

“There’s so much fruit in this city that just falls to the ground,” she said, adding she’d far rather do the work to capture, process and enjoy the fruits of that labour, than see it rotting on the ground, attracting deer and wasps.

Then the Cider Enthusiasts benefit with good local product as opposed to being stuck using ready-made juice for their cider making.

“It’s the difference between Wonder Bread and a beautiful loaf of bread from Fol Epi,” Cherkosh said. “Sometimes I want a fluffy white bread, but not every day.”

To offer apples for the Greater Victoria Cider Enthusiasts Association email gruitmama@gmail.com.