Jeremy and I were walking in a neighborhood in St. Paul over the weekend and discovered a house with two apple trees in the front yard. There were apples all over the ground and smashed in the street, so obviously they weren't picking the apples. Jeremy bravely knocked on the front door and spoke to the owner of the house: she invited us to pick as many apples as we liked.
So early Sunday morning we stuck two ladders in our trunk (the extension ladder sticking out about 4 feet) and drove over to the house. We picked and picked and picked for almost two hours. There was a smaller tree with regular apples that Jeremy used the extension ladder to reach. I was of course terrified the ladder would fall or a branch would break so I held onto the ladder every time he climbed up, willing it to stay upright (since I’m certainly not strong enough to keep that from happening).
(sizing up the ladder position)
(Jeremy up in the trees)
When that tree was nearly picked clean, we moved onto the crab apple and I climbed up into this one. There were so many apples just out of reach!
Our haul was quite impressive.
I know we picked 50+ pounds of regular apples, but I’m not sure how many crab apples we picked (because we processed them before weighing them!) – but we’ve made 2 dozen jars of crab apple jelly. And we have enough to make another eight or so jars (to add to the other two dozen we made from Frank’s apples!).
(juicing the aples)
(putting the last jar of apple jelly out to cool)
Ah, the joys of urban harvesting.
Urban harvesting comes in some different forms, but it basically means harvesting fruits (mainly) from other people’s trees. Some people ask the owners, some don’t. Jeremy and I have been making our best attempt to ask owners of fruit trees before we pick.
That’s how we’ve been given permission to help ourselves to the entire crop of crab apples from our neighbor two doors down, the whole crop of apples from our neighbor across the street, and the whole crop of apples from the St. Paul house. We’ve also been able to harvest raspberries and currants from another neighbor across the street. We discovered a beautiful cherry tree just a couple blocks away but we could never reach the owners – even after leaving our names, numbers, and email on their front door. We should have just gone in the yard anyway, since those cherries all fell off the tree and rotted.
We also saw a cherry tree a few blocks down in the other direction and a number of peach trees. On Sunday a family at church brought some plums to share so we called them up and asked if they had more plums they might be willing to share. Of course they did! So we tied the extension ladder in the trunk (sticking out again, with a little scrap of red fabric fluttering at the end) and drove over to St. Paul to pick plums.
They had said there were just a few left, but we picked loads of them (about 22 pounds) and still left quite a few on the tree. And it turned out we didn’t need any ladders at all – though I did of course climb the tree. There were so many plums just out of reach!
If you're interested in learning more about urban harvesting, here are some places to start:
An NPR radio program: Private Trees, Public Property: Picking "Fallen Fruit"
Pick yer Own: building community through DIY urban harvesting
Finders Keepers: The Urban Found Food Movement
Urban Edibles: a community database of wild food sources in Portland OR
The Fruit Tree Project
Urban Harvesting video (from the Bioneers community):