Self seeded fruit trees in culverts, old orchards on abandoned sites, food trees hanging over the fence into the back laneway. It’s all what is known as ‘feral fruit’ and it’s one of the best, if unheralded, community resources an area has, whether you be in an inner-city suburb or out in the middle of nowhere.
A feral fruit map is a way of mapping the resources in your area, so that come late summer and autumn, many a happy weekend can be spent finding, picking and eating/processing the bounty of your local area. Free, local food. So good….
Early spring is a great time to figure out where all these feral fruit trees are, because early spring is blossom time. Take a walk or a drive around your area and this will become mightily apparent. And with these beacons of blossom, one can map out the feral fruit of one’s area. All you need is a map, pen and paper, and your eyes.
A good way to approach your Feral Fruit Map for the year is to firstly get hold of a map of your area. A printout from google maps should do the trick in most cases. Or, of course, you could make one yourself. Then, mark off where all the blossoming trees are that you think might be food trees. Even if you’re not sure what sort of fruit or otherwise edible substance the tree will yield. You can always cross that tree off the map later if you’ve mistaken a tree peony for a pear tree or something.
Mark the likely-looking trees with numbers on your map, and then at the base, or on the back, write down the numbers with any info that might be useful next to them. If you recognize the species from the flower, put that down. If you don’t, put down the color of the flower. And put anything else down that might be relevant to future harvesting potential (might need a ladder, mad dog being very barky inside fence.. etc).
The point of this system is this: we all see fruit-trees flowering in spring. We seldom remember where they were by late summer, when everything is green and lush and the fruit is hard to see. So we don’t bother hunting down this wonderful community resource when the time is right.
And that is your work done for the spring. Later in the piece you’ll probably want to do a round-up of what trees have ended up fruiting, say in mid-summer. Lots of flowers do not mean lost of fruit necessarily, so checking is a good idea. Also, everything ripens at its own time, so from mid-summer on you may want to do a round of your map every two weeks or so. Lastly, the more feral fruit trees you find and put on your map, the better your chances are of getting a harvest. Self-seeded trees, old, un-renovated trees and even lovingly cared-for trees don’t always bear much fruit, or yummy fruit, necessarily. It depends on the year and, to a degree, luck.
Lastly – a resource shared is a resource made real. So get others in on the act. This could be over a cup of tea, with you sticking your map in their face and imploring them to add to it, or perhaps putting your map online somewheres and inviting people to add to it (or to send you details of trees to add to it yourself). Of course there are a gazillion and one ways of sharing this information, but a couple of quick examples:
- find your area online at Google Maps and add the relevant map, at a usable scale, to ‘My Maps’. You can then put placemarks, with notes, wherever you have found a tree onto that map. You can also share that maps URL with others. …Example…
- post a map as a photo to a photosharing site like Flickr , and make the photo public. Allow people to add ‘notes’ to your picture, and each point selected on the photo becomes a reference to a tree. …Example…
- collect emails and send around a word.doc file once a month with updated points.
If you’re shy about contacting people directly to contribute, stick up a sign or two wherever is relevant (pole, community board) or just chalk the URL onto the pavement at various street corners. Printout a bunch of copies of the URL and a brief description, and letterbox your area, inviting people to add to it.
And if no-one else responds, hey, more feral fruit for you! Just don’t get a tummy ache from eating too much autumn goodness when the time comes…
Update: Nick – 19/09/2007
You might also like top contribute your map to the fantastic Fallen Fruit an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in a neighborhood of Los Angeles. They are asking everyone to contribute fruit tree maps so they can cover the whole world. Fabulous!