Some people do a pretty good job in the free food area. Somedays, I am just green with envy. This weekend, I will get my share of free food. It is just the free lemons and apricots and tomatoes that get to me...lol.
If you have never asked for unpicked fruit, ask! Just screw up your courage and ask. Whether they say yes or no, surely opportunity will present itself again. Make sure you are prepared as you drive around doing your daily chores. Free fruit or vegetables will present themselves when you least expect it. You don't want to ask for free fruit then beg for a bag!
Carry a stash of some kind, bags/containers for gathering. If you can, carry at least one container that will sit open on its own--box, stiff bag, paper bag--because having to deal with getting fruit into the floppy top of a plastic bag is really annoying and slows down the process. Sometimes, I have picked up the same piece of fruit three or four times while trying to get it into a bag that keeps folding down and collapsing.
In my car I carry--fruit picker, pecan picker-upper, bags, basket, gloves, reacher (for alternative storage container access), and a shovel (for digging plants). Be prepared.
When I was buying the long-handled fruit picker, I know my friend with me thought I had lost my mind since he knew I had little money. But, he was astounded at the amount of pears I got in one day--115 lbs. So, the cost was worth it--returned in just one day. The right tools do help even after you have screwed up your courage. Some days I have to do a drive-by and go back to ask.
My friend and I went past the pear tree after I picked so many, and the mower was several blocks down the road, having just mown over the pears on the ground. We weren't going to pick anymore, but hated that any were lost to others. That was last year. This year, I will carry a good pail to pick up pear parts for the hens.
By the way, that tree where you picked up so much fruit from the ground will yield more than were on the ground. Return. Apples that fall on their own usually have a flaw. Apples were meant to be picked. That is not to say that apples should be left on the ground. I eat them.
Offer to pick a bucket or box full of fruit for the owner of the tree. Ask if you can return for more fruit as it ripens. Bring a jar of preserves or whatever back to the owner of the tree. If you are getting extra tomatoes, bring a can of preserved tomatoes. Assure the person that the tomatoes have been preserved properly, briefly sharing you method. You don't want someone throwing out your canned food, thinking you might not have done it properly. It is not necessary, but offer to bring pecans you have picked. Anything! In other words: share. Share with someone who is being generous. Even if the person says it is not necessary, do it anyway. Okay, if you think they might be dangerous, don't go back. That is the only reason I can fathom for not sharing with a generous person.
In "After Apple Picking" by Robert Frost, the storyteller states that the apples on the ground were good only for cider. Well, if I have the story right.... But, I would eat them.
I would encourage anyone who has the remotest chance of picking fruit from a tree to get a fruit picker-gatherer. That $19.99 has been paid for in pears. At first, I could only reach 7" from the ground just standing and reaching. If my friend tugged the branch a bit, we could get a few pears that were about 9" from the ground. With the fruit picker I can reach 17" from the ground.
Because a friend and I both bought a fruit picker, large nut-cracker, and pecan gatherer, the guy knocked off the tax. I asked for the favor. By buying several things and getting two of each, the merchant, my friend, and I profitted. This is a small locally-owned store, so this might not work in a chain.
My funk of figs? Well, that sounds better than a passel of figs. Right? My friend gave me another gallon of figs today. I gave her 18 fresh eggs from my hens. There will be plenty of fig preserves here this winter.
Is anyone canning figs or preserves? Okay, what are you canning? Have you ever used the fruit picker?