Cappers Farmer Blogs > Homespun Life in the City

Urban Fruit Foraging

Erin SheehanLast year we picked about 25 pounds of apples from two abandoned fruit trees in our city. Both trees were in busy areas, but the free fruit they had was overlooked by everyone who passed by but me, I guess. We didn’t waste any of those apples, eating as many we could stand and canning the rest into apple pie filling. Last month I checked last year’s trees to see how “my” apples were doing. To my surprise both of the trees have no apples this year! Apparently abandoned trees don’t bear as reliably as those in a maintained orchard. Since this discovery I’ve been carefully studying all the trees I pass as I walk and ride around the city, seeking a new apple tree or two.

Last week I finally found an apple tree with apples on it. It’s about three blocks from my office and sits between the sidewalk and a busy downtown street, in front of a group of so-so row houses. An unlikely location for a fruit tree! Jim and I took our apple picker and a small stepladder last Friday morning to visit the tree. Picking tools are necessary because low-hanging fruit is generally gone on any accessible urban fruit tree. To bring in a meaningful haul you need the tools of the trade.

tree

tree2

As it turned out, we could only pick about half the apples on the tree. There were two cars parked on the street directly below the choicest apples. Jostling the branches over the cars made apples rain down, and we got worried about setting off a car alarm. In the 25 minutes we spent picking, several people emerged from the apartments around the tree. Each person acknowledged us but didn’t act as if we were doing anything strange or noteworthy. Jim was just happy no one called the police!

apples

We picked 14 pounds of apples from that tree. The fruit is nice sized, and there are only a few blemishes here and there. One great thing about urban fruit is that pests aren’t usually an issue. Monocultures attract pests. One tree here and there won’t support a big worm infestation. Urban apples are generally organic as well. After all, the trees have been abandoned, they aren’t being cared for and they certainly aren’t being sprayed with pesticides.

I’d like to match our 25-pound take from last year. That means I either have to figure out how to get the rest of the apples hanging over the cars or find a second tree. I only have a few more weeks before the season ends, I hope I make it!

homespunlifeinthecity
10/7/2014 10:20:00 AM

Hi RL and Dave - thanks for the comments. We love finding food. We picked a lot of butternuts around our neighborhood this year and are drying them in the attic. Getting into them is a good winter project.


reneeb
10/5/2014 7:30:34 PM

Hello Erin and ND, The best apple tree I ever had was in my backyard in the city before I came back to the country. It was ancient and the main trunk was TOTALLY HOLLOW. The outer layer held it up just fine and it gave the best apples for pie and sauce. Hat's off to old apple trees! - RL


nebraskadave
10/1/2014 6:50:57 PM

Erin, in my experience most urban fruit trees go un harvested. Why or how hey get planted I don't know. The ones that survive usually have the best fruit. My neighbor had one that had the best apples until a big storm came through and uprooted it. It was a great lost to the neighborhood. It was before I had the time to garden or preserve any thing. I wish now I had tried to grow one from the seed of that tree. It had to be a 45 to 50 year old tree that was planted by the original owner of the house. The crab apple tree in my back yard was totally unusable. It had cedar rust so bad that none of the apples could be used. I finally just cut it down and eventually built a raised club house for my grandson. I like to hear about urban foraging. I haven't found any fruit trees yet but I did find a walnut tree but I didn't stop to pick up any walnuts. They are just too much work for what you get out of them. ***** Have a great urban foraging day.