Last week, the New York Times published Neighbor, Can You Spare a Plum? by Kim Severson that detailed the growth of foraging for fruit.
In Royal Oak, Mich., a woman investigated how to start a fruit exchange modeled after Fallen Fruit (fallenfruit.org), an arts group that designs maps of accessible fruit growing in Los Angeles neighborhoods.
In Alaska, cooks used Facebook to find willing donors of backyard rhubarb, the first dessert crop that grows after the long winter. In Columbia, S.C., university students pulled spare peaches from orchards and donated them to a local food bank.
Supporters of this movement hold two basic principles. One, it’s a shame to let fruit go to waste. And two, neighborhood fruit tastes best when it’s free.
Wow, so people taking advantage of the wealth of fruit trees and bushes in people’s yards. Sounds great, but pickers should be aware that asking first is the best policy:
Jennifer Perillo, a mother and food writer who lives in Brooklyn, became an accidental neighborhood fruit forager last summer. She was driving to her mother’s house in Bensonhurst when she saw vibrant red balls hanging from a tree in someone’s yard. Cherries!
She saw a peach tree, too, and leaned over a fence for a sample. The owner was none too happy, but when she explained that she only wanted her children to taste a fresh Brooklyn peach, he gave her half a dozen.
But it sounds as if most of the feedback has been positive:
She and some friends went to the home of a woman who had planted apple trees 30 years before, but was too old to pick them. They gathered nearly 200 pounds, gave some to the woman and went back to prune her trees.
That apple adventure inspired the Portland Fruit Tree Project, a database of more than 300 trees, each registered by the owner, who promises to call about two weeks before the fruit is ripe to arrange a harvest.
“A family can only really eat 20 pounds of fresh apples or so before they cry uncle,” Ms. Kolker said. “A fruit tree is really made for sharing with your neighborhood.”
This year, 20 picking parties are planned. Half the fruit goes to the people who pick, and half to a local food bank. Ms. Kolker reserves half of the dozen slots at each picking party for low-income people.
This is awesome! As I was reading this story, I decided to take a break to see if Chicago has an organization doing this activity. I came up empty-handed but I think that this will be a part of the food movement that grows into most small and large cities where respect for such fruit maybe has over time fallen to the wayside. I remember the apricot trees and blueberry and blackberry bushes from my grandmother’s yard never going to waste. My grandfather knew people who wanted to have different nut trees picked and he would go and pick many buckets full each year, cracking them in his basement and disbursing them to friends, neighbors, and family.
This is the type of activity that will hopefully lead to not only more people taking advantage of the fruit trees and bushes that exist already but also adding new varieties of trees and bushes to the mix. We could turn our yards into not only gardens but also into food sources, even orchards, by planting fruit trees that will grow fresh fruits each year. Imagine the backyards of every home on a block each having one or two fruit trees and several fruit bushes giving us local, cheap, fair food for the picking, or foraging, year after year!