Anchorage man shares his love of apples with community
Safe away from roaming moose, and under a generous layer of mulch -- Ira Edwards is storing dozens of young apple trees he grafted by hand until they can be planted at a few schools in Anchorage next Spring.
“A lot of people just don't realize where their food comes from,” he told KTVA, explaining the project would help educate Anchorage youth and hopefully provide food for the food bank in the future.
In his backyard, he has a small orchard of his own, including pear trees, cherry trees and several other species of apples.
“I like pies and I like cider,” he said, adding that just one of his apple trees would produce around 10 baskets of fruit before the snow fell.
Before his own apples ripened, Edwards helped several friends pick apples from their trees, a process of shaking the tree so apples fell into a waiting tarp, and then collecting any stragglers by hand.
“I figure at a very conservative estimate, there's 100,000 apple trees in town,” he said, adding that he hates to see food go to waste, and, “When the apples are ripe, they're all ripe at once, and there'll be too much for any one person to use at one time.”
That’s why he offers up his press to anyone who wants to preserve their abundance of apples like he does.
A modified cheese press allows him to stack several crates of fabric wrapped apple puree, then squeeze out gallons of juice with a 20-ton hydraulic press.
Even though he says this year’s apple haul was smaller than normal due to a cold summer, the hundreds of gallons of juice he harvested are impressive.
“There’s a lot of fruit that grows here in Alaska that’s not getting used,” he said.
He plans to use every part. Much of the juice will be fermented and used to make cider.
“Fermentation is a way to preserve things to keep them from spoiling. Or, you can say, instead of your fruit juice went bad, it went good,” Edwards joked.
At 42, he’s been making cider for 21 years and making apple juice for even longer; he tells us he’s excited to give apple tree seedlings to the schools next year.
“It’s a way I can help share my love of fruit,” he said.