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Urban Fruit Foraging

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By Erin Sheehan | Oct 1, 2014

Last 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.

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!

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!

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